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'I want to start a revolution'

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It was in February 1969 that I made my first political speech in a village named Raun close to Alauli in Khagaria district. It was the day of the village haat and I brought a chowki (wooden cot) and stood on it in a small plot of land near the school. There was no mike. Seeing a youth in black trousers and black hand-knit sweater, about 50 villagers gathered out of curiosity. I cleared my throat and began by introducing myself. "Priya bandhuon, (dear friends), I am Ram Vilas Paswan. I have completed my MA and law degree from Patna University, have appeared in the Bihar Public Service Commission exam and have been cleared for the job of deputy superintendent of police (DSP). But my friends want me to contest the assembly election from Alauli reserved constituency. "

By then, some more people had joined. I hadn't prepared a speech. I did not even know the ABC of socialism or anything about the Sanyukta Socialist Party (SSP), called Sansopa in local parlance. But I did not stop or hesitate. "I want to start a revolution. Ours is the party of the poor. It cares about you. If you vote for me, I will serve you like your family member. Congress has done great injustice to the country, " I said.

There was occasional applause by the public who were egged on by my friends. But some villagers did say this launda (lad) is speaking well and right. This encouraged me. I knew nothing about the policies and programmes of the SSP nor had I seen socialist leaders such as Ram Manohar Lohia, Raj Narain, Madhu Limaye or Karpoori Thakur. But I dropped their names in my speech to impress the gathering, neither fumbling nor showing any anxiety.

That's where it started. After my speech, people collected a donation of Rs 250. I hired a rickshaw and fitted it with a mike. From then on, I would personally announce Ram Vilas Paswan's scheduled speech from village to village, then stand on that very rickshaw to deliver a speech.

AS TOLD TO FAIZAN AHMAD

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