Lone warrior: Why Chote Lal Mahato won't give up

Chote Lal Mahato is a one-man army unlike regular party candidates who have large support system.

Tarique Anwar October 10, 2015 15:07:23 IST
Lone warrior: Why Chote Lal Mahato won't give up

Kishanganj: Give it to this man. He does not give up, no matter who he is up against. Meet Chote Lal Mahato, a contestant from Kishanganj.

The 38-year-old cooking gas vendor from Churi Patti has been contesting elections, both parliamentary and assembly, since 2004. Popularly known as ‘Vidhayak Ji’, Mahato is banking on popular goodwill to sail through this time. Kishnaganj assembly segment goes to polls in the last phase, 5 November.

Lone warrior Why Chote Lal Mahato wont give up

Chote Lal Mahato. Tarique Anwar/Firstpost

He is a one-man army unlike regular party candidates who have large support system. He does everything on his own, from distributing handbills, to campaigning rickshaw or cycle to holding nukkar sabhas (road corner meetings). He claims to have set an example for politicians who spend crores of rupees on their campaigning.
His typical day begins early. He goes to all local tea stalls in the vicinity of his home to inform people there that he is contesting the polls. He comes back by 9-9.30 am and then goes to distribute cylinders to households. He carries his handbills all the time and leaves them in every house he goes to deliver the cylinders. Work over by 3 pm, he comes back home and again leaves for canvassing after 5 pm.

Asked what prompts him to contest the polls, Mahato told Firstpost, "Elections are held to re-constitute Parliament and assemblies once in every five year. VVIP netas suddenly show up, tall promises are made but unfortunately, nothing changes for ordinary people. Lives of poor people like me continue to be the same. Look where the prices have gone. What will a poor man do? If I don’t earn for a day, my family will starve. I want to change this system." He is a father of three – two sons and one daughter.

"Politicians make hollow promises and slogans. I fail to understand why whenever a VVIP visits any area, road building and other development work get done in a matter of two-three days. If the same sincerity is shown on a routine basis, entire Kishanganj can become a shining example of development," he said.

Asked how would he change the system if elected, he replied, "I will use cycle or rickshaw as mode of transport in my constituency and take up people’s problems on a priority basis."

Mahato, a standard five dropout, made debut in politics in 2002 by contesting civic body polls, which was conducted in Bihar after a gap of 17 years. But he lost by 189 votes."I contested from ward number 1 because my area (ward number 4) was declared reserved for ladies. Hum sardar ji ke basti men saloon khol diye the (It was like I had opened a barber’s shop in an area of sardars)," Mahato said, explaining he was new to the ward and therefore lost.

After that debacle, his political aspiration, instead of going down, increased and he decided to contest 2004 Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate with the "support of his fellow rickshaw pullers and other daily wage labourers".

"Since my election symbol was shuttle, I coined a slogan 'aa gaya hai shuttle, ab ud jayenge Atal'. Though I did not win, I managed to secure 11, 479 votes," he said.

He again filed nomination to contest the February 2005 assembly elections in the state but his candidature was rejected on grounds of missing signatures on the nomination papers. He got another chance to contest the same year as a result of the hung assembly but did not contest it on the "suggestion of his supporters who advised him to concentrate on the next general election, which was due in 2009, and contest it with full energy".

"I worked hard in the constituency and got tremendous support from people in my locality who arranged a pick-up van with loudspeakers, got published handbills and posters, donated clothes for banners and helped with money," said Mahato, who managed to bag 5,453 votes that year. The 2010 assembly election was a little disappointing for him because he secured only 1,121 votes. But in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections he regained the lost popularity by securing 11,392 votes. "This was despite a strong (Narendra) Modi wave," he proudly announced.

Asked why does not give up despite the continuous failure, he replied with a pledge, “I will keep contesting and I am sure I will win with a historic margin from the constituency.”

Asked did he not get offer from political parties to withdraw himself from the race because he can impact their winning prospects, especially in assembly polls, he said, "Yes, I get such offers but I am a people’s candidate and cannot be dishonest. Main baithunga lekin election mein nahin, Lok Sabha ya Vidhan Sabha mein (I will sit in Lok Sabha or assembly but not in election.”

He said he loses because he fails to reach out to all voters of his constituency on account of lack of resources. "I do not have car or motorbike. Pulling rickshaw and cycle has a limitation because of the bigger size of the constituency. Therefore, I fail to approach people who do not know me personally in far-off places," he said.

But this year he has decided not to leave any part of his constituency untouched. "I and my wife (Gita Devi) have begun going to villages and we are getting good response. I touch the feet of each of the voters we meet and seek their blessings," he said, adding that the provision of photograph on the EVM has increased his winning chances. "Voters will be able to recognise my symbol with my photo which will help secure their votes," Mahato said.

His wife Gita, whom he married with in 1994, said she was inspired by the firm determination and strong will power of his husband and therefore, she never discouraged him. The couple, along with their children, live in a dilapidated hut, which sometimes fails to save them from rain water. They own a piece of land measuring five dhurs (each dhur is approximately 68.06 square feet or 6.323 square meters) nearby where they are constructing a small house with the fund they received under Indira Awas Yojna (a housing scheme of the government).

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