A political contest has already broken out in Bihar ahead of the assembly elections in September, with each party trying to grab maximum eyeballs.
The latest war is over the ‘grabbing’ of autorickshaws to display campaign slogans. Call it the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) effect, but whether it is the JD(U) or the BJP, all have made a determined bid to hit ‘auto mode’.
Taking a cue from the Delhi elections, where the AAP embarked on an aggressive election campaign by using the autorickshaw as a medium to reach the masses, political parties here are gunning for the 22,000-odd autos that ply on Patna roads to reach out to voters.
Plastered with punch lines of political parties and faces of leaders such as Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi, autos are proving to be a cheaper alternative than putting up hoardings.
“With an auto travelling no less than 150 km per day, there is an average viewership of 5,000 per autorickshaw and roaming visibility for at least 16 hours a day,” said a publicity house manager.
However, autorickshaw owners say the attention is unwanted.
“Auto drivers are being cheated. They are not paid money by parties for carrying their slogans. Parties are pasting slogans by pressuring drivers. Only a handful of them are voluntarily opting for it,” said Navin Mishra, secretary of Patna District Auto Rickshaw Association.
“We opposed it and complained to both BJP and JD(U). The BJP took note and promised to pay `100 per month but not the ruling JD(U). They neither approached our association, nor are they paying,” said Raj Kumar Jha, general secretary of Bihar State Auto Rickshaw Drivers’ Association.
The JD(U) washed its hands off the issue with party spokesperson Ajay Alok calling the putting up of posters “the work of NGOs”.
However, the BJP had a different take. “We don’t just stick the posters but also talk to passengers about corruption in the JD(U) regime. We try to convince them that BJP is the best available option,” said a party office bearer.