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    One election, varied issues: Why this Bihar poll battle is not like the last three


    Anti-incumbency, the return of ‘Jungle Raj’, financial hardships in corona times and widespread unemployment — there are many issues and the priorities vary from constituency to constituency and also depending on the voter’s historical inclination, often based on caste lines.

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    (This story originally appeared in on Oct 24, 2020)
    PATNA: Unlike in the past three elections, when there was an overwhelming central narrative in Bihar polls — to defeat Lalu Yadav and establish ‘sushashan’ in 2005 and 2010 and to defeat BJP in 2015 — no single issue seems to be dominating the current elections.

    Anti-incumbency, the return of ‘Jungle Raj’, economic hardships in corona times and widespread unemployment — there are many issues and the priorities vary from constituency to constituency and also depending on the voter’s historical inclination, often based on castelines.

    “Nitish Kumar built this road and I am earning from it, should I be forever grateful for this?” asks Prem Kumar, who has a little pan shop in Faridpur village on the four-year-old Son-Canal Road that goes from Patna towards Arwal and Jehanabad. This village is in Patna district’s Vikram constituency. “What happened to his demand for special status for the state? More central funding might have helped the state,” adds Kumar, a Chandravanshi Kahar, an OBC caste group.

    “Recently the government has planted trees on the government land adjoining this road which was earlier leased to farmers and there is widespread anger because of this. God knows why he is doing all this just before the election,” Kumar wonders while saying that he will vote for the Congress candidate.

    He adds that while he is angry with the CM, his voting preference is based on the candidate rather than any party inclination. Kaushal Kumar Sharma, a Bhumihar farmer from the same village, disagrees and cites how nobody would venture on this road in the evening during the ‘Jungle raj’. “The present generation doesn’t understand our struggle during those days when the rule of law didn’t exist in the state,” he laments.

    Sharma says he is disgusted with the Congress for not contesting alone (the seat was won by Congress in 2015) but concedes that the party may have an edge this time too. “They would all have voted for BJP if the party had given the ticket to Anil Kumar. Wouldn’t you?” he asks Kumar, who prefers not to answer. “His first term established Nitish Kumar as Vikash Purush, but it has been 15 years now,” says Jaleshwar Paswan of nearby Vaigwan village. “We will vote for change,” he adds.

    “This time, Paswans and Yadavs are together in Bikram,” adds Lal Babu Yadav of the same village. When asked about the Paswan community’s support for Chirag Paswan’s LJP, Ravindra Paswan, another resident from the village, says Chirag is popular across castes but his party has not fielded any candidate in Vikram, which might have shifted Paswan votes.

    The assertion seems to hold in the nearby Paliganj constituency, where LJP’s Usha Vidyarthi is likely to get both Paswan and forward caste votes. The call for change echoes in Paliganj, where the Mahagathbandhan’s candidate CPI(ML)‘s Sandeep Saurav, a former General Secretary of the JNU students’ union, appears to be the favourite. Both seats were won by the alliance in 2015 as well (Vikram-Congress and Paliganj-RJD) and have a significant presence of CPI(ML) votes.

    Lal Mohan Chauhan, a Naunia, an extremely backward caste, has a shop in Paliganj market. He is outraged by the government’s ban on Durga Puja mela. “Everyone in this market might have earned from that. While there is no corona for rallies, the common man is banned from earning his living,” he adds.

    “I think he (CM) is old and that’s why he is blaming Bihar’s distance from sea-ports for the lack of development”, he says while acknowledging his preference for the CPI(ML) candidate. “I paid Rs 2,000 for a bus ticket from Gurgaon to Bihar and what did I get. I am unemployed since then,” says Ramshankar Verma (a Kushwaha) from Rakasa village in Paliganj.

    “I was in my 30s when Nitish jee became the chief minister. Now I am about 50 years old. My youth is wasted but what about the youngsters of the state. Nitish Jee’s vikas ended with roads and electricity and conditions have certainly improved, but why is unemployment so widespread in the state”.
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    12 Comments on this Story

    Rahul K Barnwal40 days ago
    The 15 year incumbent CM has shown that past performance is no guarantee of future good performance
    Sasi Kumar41 days ago
    BJP should have left alliance with Nitish the old acrobatic master and casted another Yogi as CM candidate.
    Hussain Syed41 days ago
    I have no party affiliations .People of Bihar should not forget the Hawan performed by small children in schools for the release of their school mates from the clutches of kidnappers during the Jungle Raj of Lalu Rabri Devi duo.In the dark fifteen year's rule only industry which flourished was kidnapping ,loot and murder .
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