Das, a former Bihar chief minister who was first elected to Lok Sabha in 1991 at the age of 70, rues that the character of national political parties has changed drastically over the years and they are divided on the basis of caste, religion and region.

"All national parties have been turned into regional parties. Their character has changed and all this is because of petty self-interest," Das claims.

He says that with increasing political uncertainty, problems have also increased.

"Factionalism has increased, so has groupism. Political parties are divided into different groups on the basis of caste, religion and region. And they are making compromises for small gains," said Das.

Age may not be on his side but Das doesn't want to loosen his grip on politics as he relentlessly keeps himself busy in campaigning, combating the summer heat.

He says that there has been a sea change in the poll campaign over the years.

"Politics has seen a lot of degradation. Logical arguments should take place in a healthy democratic process... One can raise thorny issues, but in a dignified manner and within certain limits," Das says.

Besides Das and Paswan, Sanjeev Prasad Toni of Congress, Dhaneshwar Ram of BSP and SP's Veerchandra Paswan, among others, are also in the fray for the May 7 polls.

In 2009, Das defeated Paswan by 37,954 votes.

Born in Gangajal village of Bihar's Saran district on January 9, 1921, Das joined Congress Socialist Party in 1945 and later Praja Socialist Party before becoming a member of JD-U.

On changes in the democratic process that he has witnessed through these years, Das says, "Democracy is a very hard- earned asset. It is there and will be there. There is no better system than democracy."


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