Jamui, Bihar: It’s 6.15 pm and Jamui is in complete darkness. Driving becomes difficult as there are more potholes than road, and boulders protrude dangerously all along. Nothing much has changed here since 2006 when the Ministry of Panchayati Raj named it among the 250 most backward districts of India.
Located only 170 km from Patna, Jamui not only ranks low in several development parameters such as electricity, infrastructure and economic development, it is also infamous for being a hotbed for Maoist activity. The enormity of the Maoist problem can be judged from the fact that in 2013, Left ultras had hijacked a passenger train, held the driver hostage and looted the passengers. It is amid this difficult existential reality that the district will choose its representative on 12 October 12 — the first phase of the Assembly election in Bihar.
“Power cuts are normal here. As it is election time, we are getting 10 to 12 hours of electricity every day; otherwise, we get only three to four hours of electricity. Sometimes, power is cut for even two to three days at a stretch. Instead of its 60 MW power requirement, Jamui gets nine to 10 MW of electricity. The only source of electricity is an inverter,” said the owner of a roadside dhaba.
Despite three out of four MLAs belonging to the ruling JD(U), the district has remained neglected, and under the constant shadow of the Maoist threat. But, this time people have decided to ‘vote for development’. To justify their decision, they are citing Centre-state relations as a strong reason to vote for the BJP.
“By development, we mean Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The PM has already given the state a huge grant, which he had promised during the Lok Sabha election. Now, if the BJP comes to power in the state, we’ll get more funds and attention. Mere caste-based politics won’t be of any help,” said trader Uma Shankar Gupta.
Jamui, which was carved out of Munger as a small independent district in 1991, has four legislative seats — Jamui, Sikandra, Jhajha and Chakai. Barring Chakai, the MLAs of the other three seats belong to the JD(U). Ajay Pratap, the Jamui MLA, is now a BJP candidate.
“Ajay Pratap is educated as well as a strong candidate from Jamui seat. He has the strong support of upper caste voters, including the Thakurs and also the Brahmins, Kayasthas and the business community. He has a strong winnability factor. Moreover, the reputation of the other candidate being fielded by the Nitish-Lalu alliance is not good,” said Nand Kishor Singh, a small entrepreneur of Jamui.
The upper class Thakur factor is likely to work in favour of Ajay Pratap. In the Assembly constituency of Jamui, the highest percentage of voters are Thakurs, followed by Yadavs and the combination of Brahmin-Kayastha-Bania communities. The combine has a strong affinity to the BJP, which can be sensed at the market place in Jamui.
The Member of Parliament from Jamui — Chirag Paswan, son of Ram Vilas Paswan, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president and Union minister — is another strong reason for a large section of Jamui voters, including the Dalits, to support the BJP. Paswan enjoys strong support from the Dalits.
“LJP is a partner in the NDA government at the Centre and Chirag Paswan is our MP. The LJP has fielded its two candidates in Sikandara and Chakai, and the party has a fair chance of winning the two seats. If this happens, it’ll be beneficial for Jamui,” added Singh.
To give his campaign strategy the finishing touch, the junior Paswan is in Jamui and held a closed-door meeting with his party candidates and workers on Thursday.
“It’s not just about the two LJP candidates from Sikandara and Chakai, it also about the two other BJP candidates. As an MP of Jamui, it’s my responsibility to ensure victory of all the four candidates as we’re an ally of the NDA. Our aim is also to make Jamui free from Maoist activities, which is possible only by adopting the development model,” Chirag told Firstpost.
Within 10 months of becoming an MP, Paswan has been successful in establishing the first Kendriya Vidyalaya in Jamui district. “The district lacks development. The basic infrastructure is in a ramshackle state. It’s high time for the state to have a strong government, which only the BJP, with LJP as an ally, can provide," added Paswan.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar joining hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav has not gone down well with Jamui voters, as is the case in many other districts. “Had Nitish Kumar contested alone, JD(U) would have performed better. But, his alliance with his strongest enemy Lalu Prasad has left a large number of voters frustrated. Moreover, we’ve witnessed the Lalu regime and we can’t let this alliance win. BJP is the best option for sensible voters, if they want development in Jamui,” a high school teacher remarked on condition of anonymity.
Published Date: Oct 02, 2015 02:04 pm | Updated Date: Oct 02, 2015 02:04 pm