Bihar Battle: At Ground Zero, Chai pe Charcha is on Vikas

Parties, leaders may be debating diet & demons, but in Patna, topic of discussion is very simple who should rule Bihar?

Published: 10th October 2015 04:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th October 2015 08:27 AM   |  A+A-

At Ground

PATNA: In this do-or-die battle for Bihar, there’s not an inch of mindspace that’s being left untouched. From roof-top billboards to street corners and marketplaces, who should rule Bihar and why is being discussed threadbare, everything else is on ‘please wait’ mode.

ATT.JPGThe man on the road in Patna, thus, is convinced that he is voting to decide the course of Indian politics. And in this battle of wits, between PM Narendra Modi and CM Nitish Kumar, ‘vikas’ (development) is getting newer dimensions. Slogans on the billboards are being changed by both sides, every 48 hours. The war is being fought on the skyline as well. And, never before has the word ‘development’ got so much spin, sparring over emotive issues like food habits (beef-eating) and what Lalu said or did not say, notwithstanding.

AT.JPGIf Modi-Amit Shah are telling the voters that the only way to change Bihar is to change the government, Kumar is telling them not to fall for ‘jumalawar’ (election rhetoric). Like the boy and girl eternally reaching out to each other on the Grecian Urn, immoratlised by John Keats, on the hoarding, Modi and Kumar are juxtaposed in an eternal contest.

“It has never happened before in Bihar elections that the political parties and the leaders had to hammer out their differences so loudly round-the-clock. Hammer it into the electorate… both are promising to develop Bihar as never before,” says Patna-based social scientist DM Dwivakar. If Modi and BJP’s — the latter is synonymous with the former now — ‘Bihar ka vikas’ is all about a future in which — a Pande, a Rajkumar or Anil — with graduate degrees do not have to leave Ara, Gaya, Goh to do odd-jobs in Patna, Mumbai, Delhi; Kumar promises the women school teacher jobs, a dignified life. If Kumar wins: there’ll be ban on alcohol sale. If BJP wins: there’ll be ban on cow slaughter. It’s not the parties or their leaders who are saying this, but the voters in Patna and adjoining areas. None of this is on the numerous billboards. “Bihar politics is awash with soap opera,” says Pande, a student who is working part-time to support his education and preparation for a banking exam. Many like him hope post-election Bihar sees the kind of development that allows them to get a job, ending uncertainty.

Modi’s appeal among the youth – mostly from forward castes — lies here. And they are repeating what his billboards say: “Can change in Bihar come through crime, corruption and ego tussle?” But the youth, even those from the forward castes, surprisingly add that crime and corruption part is meant to target Lalu, and “not Nitishji.” Nitish is fighting back with appeals to women in particular. His appeal is dotting the skyline, competing with Modi’s vision.


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