Tarari: A witness to bloody caste carnages in the past, the Bhojpur region appears to be scripting a keen contest in assembly polls with Narendra Modi- led NDA and Nitish Kumar led alliance fighting a make or mar battle but for people here it is employment and education that matters.
Scores of youths particularly from Dalit hamlets have migrated to cities in search of a livelihood even as identity politics refuses to die.
In Jagdishpur, where Babu Veer Kunwar Singh once raised the banner of revolt against the Britishers and became a hero in folklore, animated debates on elections go on at roadside tea shops.
At the Sikarhata Mushhar toli in Tarari assembly segment in the district, Ramji Manjhi rues that youth have no work there and hence have to leave homes early in search of livelihood. Many Dalit youths leave homes just before their marriage to earn some money to start family life.
Though the land in the region has been fertile, control of resources in few hands has forced the vast majority of have nots to leave their home to eke out two square meals.
The pangs of migration also gave birth to a new genre of literature in Bhojpuri, where terms like bidesia pardesia and bitohia (different categories of migrants ranging from permanent, frequent and temporary) were coined.
Migration was also the recurring theme in the dramas of Bhikari Thakur, who was called the ‘Shakespeare of Bhojpur’ in which the pain of separation finds expression in a number of folk songs. ‘Bidesiya’ drama of Thakur, a tale of a housewife whose husband had migrated outside, is a hit in Bihar.
Tarari is witnessing a high profile contest with candidates including a don-turned politician, a former Union Minister and son of a dreaded caste warlord.
Indu Bhushan Singh is a pale shadow of his father Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhia, who headed the dreaded Ranveer Sena, a banned upper caste militia, which allegedly carried out a number of caste carnages in entire Bihar.
Contesting on a Samajwadi Party ticket Singh is trying to make the contest quadrangular in Tarari in Bhojpur, the hot seat of caste politics in the state where bloodbath in the name of land and honour between the upper caste landlords and the land tilling dalits and lower castes led by ultra left forces made international headlines in the nineties. He promises to fight for farmers.
NDA’s candidate is Gita Pandey, wife of don-turned politician Sunil Pandey, the Mahagathbandan has fielded former Union Minister Akhilesh Prasad Singh from Congress and CPI-ML is banking on a local Sudama Prasad.
BJP has fielded all its four sitting MLAs in Ara, Shahpur, Sandesh and Agiaon but it remains to be seen whether it repeats its performance after breaking off from JD-U.
While LJP is contesting from Tarari, the Jagdishpur seat has gone to Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP.
From the grand alliance, this time RJD is contesting five seats–Ara, Badhara, Jagdishpur, Shahpur and Sandesh, JD-U is contesting Agiaon and Tarari has gone to Congress.
The NDA is trying to hoist its flag in the Bhojpur region, which was once considered a stronghold of RJD till the BJP and JD(U) came together bringing to an end Lalu Prasad’s dominance. Now when Nitish Kumar and Lalu are together against the BJP-led NDA.
CPI-ML which had failed to win a single out of the seven seats in Bhojpur district in 2010 assembly polls sees an opportunity this time in Tarari besides Agiaon and Jagdishpur assembly segments. They are not so hopeful in other fours assembly segments—Sandesh, Barhara, Shahpur and Ara.
Their hopes are high in Tarari from where 54-year old Sudama Prasad, a graduate is contesting.
The caste divide is out in open in villages, where the issue of development seems have been submerged even as two personas leading the campaigns of NDA and the grand alliance talk of development and good governance.
In Sikarhatta village, Jitendra Singh makes it plain and simple. “Why did Nitish break the alliance with BJP. Why did he join hands with Lalu. Bhumihars (an upper caste land owning community) are with the BJP.” He is also not impressed with Indu Bhushan.
“Last time he was fielded by RJD chief Lalu Prasad from Patliputra Lok Sabha to cut into Bhumihar votes so that BJP’s Ram Kripal Yadav’s votes. He also showed no commitment to fight against Sunil Paneny and pursue his father’s murder case,” he says.
Bindewhari Giri, a Brahmin also is clear. “We will vote for the NDA candidate Gita.”
Om Prakash Singh Chandravanshi from the extremely backward caste palanquin bearer community is not so vocal.
“There is no wave,” he says in a hushed tone and believes that the CPI-ML’s candidate can make it through this time as Bhumihar votes are divided.
Ramji Mushar from the rat eaters Manjhi community says that Jitan Ram Manjhi being will not make a difference here and his community will vote the CPI-ML candidate.
There are complaints against the three-term MLA Sunil Pandey that he did not get them the promised land.
With the Nitish-BJP honeymoon over, there is a lurking fear of revival of old caste war as the alliance between BJP and JDU was not just the coming together of two parties but was the confluence of opposing social poles– landowning communities as well as the not so dominant other backwards castes, extremely backward castes and the mahadalits.