The New Leam team has been visiting many constituencies across the length and breadth of Bihar to understand the ground realities, issues and concerns that are likely to influence people’s voting behaviours in the upcoming assembly elections. While undertaking a visit to the Bikram constituency located not very far from the Capital city of Patna, we came across many people who were more than happy to discuss their concerns and feelings ahead of the upcoming polls. One of the common discontents that many reiterated was regarding BJP’s decision of not offering a ticket to popular leader Anil Kumar from the Bikram constituency and its decision of giving it to another candidate. People felt unhappy at this decision because while the former is a well known political face in the area, the latter is considered to be a political non-entity. A resident of Katarhi village in the Bikram constituency, Mr. Diwakar Sharma(a farmer by profession) like many others was terribly upset by this step and felt let down. Bihar will undergo the first phase of elections starting October 28.
Katarhi is situated near the banks of the Sone River, almost 8-9 kms from Bikram. Bikram, Pali and Arwal are among the 71 constituencies which will witness polling in the first phase.When our team visited this interior village of Bikram constituency, falling under Patna district, roads were in a dilapidated condition. Villagers told us that neither was there a school nor a healthcare facility within the 8-9km radius of the village. Sand business was going on in a full-fledged and unaltered manner. A lot of sand mafias seem to be operating here.Due to sand excavation, mostly without adhering to standard procedures, dust envelops the entire area. Some villagers , sitting near the temple of the village, were discussing the upcoming polls. When asked whom they will vote for, most of them said that they would be casting their votes in favour of an independent candidate. One of the villagers said that the BJP had given the ticket to an anonymous person who was not familiar with the people of the area and thus they felt discontented and let down.
They asserted that although they were happy with the way PM Narendra Modi was running the country, they said that the leadership of the party in the state required rethinking. They said that since they had given the ticket to a non-entity, the erstwhile BJP candidate was now running independently. The villagers were were very critical of the chief minister’s pet programme “Har Ghar Nal Yojana’ ( Tap water to every home). They said that the ‘Har Ghar Nal Yojana’ programme of Nitish Kumar is a complete failure because it has not been designed keeping in view the ground reality. Suppose a machine of the water tap gets dysfunctional then at least three thousand rupees is required to be able to fix it. They said that it’s difficult for villagers to spend such an amount on repairing a tap and the government complaint mechanism hardly worked. This made the programme quite redundant.
On the way to Bikram another village called Barah is situated, here too the road was under construction. Here we found villagers sitting on a cemented platform under a huge peepal tree. Adjacent to this was the primary health centre but the villagers commented jokingly that hardly ever had a professional and qualified doctor visited the centre and what they had instead was a quack who practiced homeopathic medicine. It was an upper cast Bhumihar dominated village. Despite all the difficulties they were not critical of PM Narendra Modi but blamed the local politicians and authorities for all the problems they were facing. When asked about the three farm bills passed by parliament, they said that they had never heard of them nor did they know its nuances. Most people were yet to decide whom to vote for and were in double minds. They are still confused and in double minds as to whom they want to vote for, a candidate from the Grand Alliance or the independent candidate. Is the BJP out of fray in the Bikram constituency.
When we reached ‘Ravidas Tola’ of Aspura Village in Bikram. We asked them how they had coped with the coronavirus cases, and the people largely spoke about large scale losses of jobs and employment.The biggest crisis that people reiterated was about the issues in accessing potable water particularly in the summer. They said that had some upper caste men of the village not supported them, the situation would have been very bad for them.Another man in his fifties said “Our names have been enrolled in the BPL list but we hardly get any ration from the government. We have complained several times but it has been of no avail.” A young lady complained about the street lights,“The street light is dysfunctional since the last several months but no political representative cares about it.” Aspura’ village also boasts of a Trauma Centre cum primary health centre. When we visited the Trauma centre, it was in a pathetic shape. Dust was gathering atop the ambulance and it had remained unused and locked in the garage for many many months. The Trauma Centre, as the locals said, was constructed about two decades ago but so many years down the line, the centre hadn’t even been inaugurated. In every election, the issue of the trauma centre has been raised but after the election everyone forgets about it. Kumar Varun, a local resident underlined his discontent with the state of public health and said that in the contemporary times, the government was interested in boosting the private sector and thus had shown steady reluctance in investing in public health. He said that since elections were run by ‘event managers’ and not genuine leaders, he said it was unlikely that the government would take up the issue of the trauma centre very seriously.
With popular discontent regarding dilapidated public health, crumbling education and poor development in the state, it will be interesting to see what the upcoming elections bring for the people of Bihar.
Anish Ankur is The New Leam Correspondent and Contributing Writer – based in Patna, Bihar.