A cavalcade comprising three sports utility vehicles (SUVs), a small tempo with loudspeakers blaring out promises and at least 20 motorbike-borne youngsters meanders through narrow the alleys of Kumhrar area on Patna's outskirts. The moment BJP's Patna Sahib candidate Shatrughan Sinha steps out of his Mahindra Scorpio, an unpleasant remark greets him: "Aap to yahan aatey hi nahi (You do not come here at all)." But in his quintessential style, Sinha says: "Khaamosh," and the crowd bursts out into a laughter.
Sinha spends a better part of the day doing roadshows in the constituency. After a small break in the afternoon, he hits the road again in the evening. With election due on April 17, the pace is likely to pick up.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, Sinha beat the RJD's Vijay Kumar by a margin of nearly 1.6 lakh votes. This time he is up against the Bhojpuri actor Kunal Singh of the Congress and Dr Gopal Prasad Sinha of the JD(U).
Even if his constituency's residents are unhappy with Sinha not visiting Patna Sahib, the people are keen to bring BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in power. That and Sinha's star power, apparent by the number of people pouring into the streets and the sheepish women stealing a glimpse of the former Bollywood star are likely to work in Sinha's favour.
So what is he offering the people of his constituency? "The first thing is that we have to bring a development-oriented and action-oriented prime minister. Now for the constituency, the topmost priority is to make Patna a clean and green city. Secondly, I will take up youth-oriented programmes in the constituency. The idea is to benefit the younger generation by bringing in private investment in Bihar, which is very low.
And this will only happen when the governing party at the Centre and the state is the same."
Will his absence from Patna Sahib work against him? "These are generic complaints. People say he does not come, or if he comes, he does not meet, or has not done any work. People who are not given work due to their vested interests talk in these terms. It is the overall personality that counts. The acceptability factor and the winnability factor that counts."
Muzaffarpur University student, 18-year-old Brijesh Kumar, explains what else could work in Sinha's favour. "My family has been voting for the RJD. But I want a change. I cannot tolerate the vanshvaad (dynasty rule) in Congress. So to bring Modi as the prime minister, one should vote for the BJP," said Brijesh.
The minority community will play a crucial role. The two adjoining constituencies of Patna Sahib and Patliputra have at least 6.5 lakh minority voters. According to political analysts, the Muslims will vote in favour of any RJD, JD(U) or Congress candidate, who could defeat BJP, depending on the constituency.
Babu Khan, a Patna Sahib-based trader, says that both Sinha and Ram Kripal Yadav, who recently joined the BJP to contest from Pataliputra, will lose in the Lok Sabha election. However, Sinha may scrape through as there are about 1.5 lakh Muslims in his constituency, against about five lakh in Ram Kripal's.