Bihar Assembly polls | ‘Without money, nothing moves’ — it’s the refrain in Paliganj

Relentless fight: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at a campaign rally in Atri, Gaya district, Bihar, on Monday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Despite an anti-incumbency wave and the possibility that the BJP may be eyeing the Bihar Chief Minister’s post, Janata Dal(U) leader and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is hoping to take on the mantle for the fourth consecutive term. But Mr. Kumar’s prospects are threatened by people’s anger and dissatisfaction with the issues of corruption and prohibition in the State.

In Paliganj, the residents are wary of approaching panchayats and police stations because of the bribe expected. Bansidhar Paswan works as a bicycle mechanic at the Paliganj bus stand. He told The Hindu, “Corruption at the block and panchayat levels and at local police stations is so rampant that people, especially those from the Extremely Backward Class (EBC) are badly affected. It is because of EBC support that Mr. Kumar has been in power for 15 years but in the last five years, corruption among officials has grown manifold and we’re hit hard.”

He alleged that the local police “don’t move a step” without bribe. “Paisa diye bina kuch bhi nahi hota hai. Pehle aisa nahi tha [Without giving money nothing moves. It was not like this earlier],” he said.

Also read: Bihar Assembly election | Voters appear divided in the State

Corruption appears to dominate all aspects around Bihar’s prohibition law too. A travel agent at the bus stand asked, “What prohibition? Daru [liquor] is available everywhere… even at local police stations. Either the policemen or the local goondas [ruffians] are profiting over prohibition. For common people, the cost has gone up two-three times.”

Likh lijiye, darubandi bhi Nitish Kumar ko bhari padega election mein. BJP kyon nahi samajhti hai is baat ko? [Write it down, Nitish Kumar will have to pay a heavy price in this election because of prohibtion. Why doesn’t the BJP understand this?” he said.

It is a three-corner fight in Paliganj. Rebel BJP candidate Usha Vidyarthi is contesting on a Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) ticket. Ms. Vidyarthi is pitted against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate Jaivardhan Yadav who, in 2015, won on a Rashtriya Janata Dal ticket but who has recently joined the JD(U), and Sandeep Bhaskar (CPI Marxist-Leninist) from the Opposition’s grand alliance.

A few kilometres away, at Prasadi-English village in Arwal district, sexagenarian farmer Shiv Nandan Sharma also expressed his frustration about corruption.

Also read: Congress firming up plans for physical rallies in the State

Koi dekhane wala nahi hai, sirf bahashan baji karte hain Nitishjji... yeh kar diye, woh kar diye. Ghuskhori charam seema par hai, khas kar ke nichale level ke adhikariyon mein [No one is here to look after us. Nitish Kumar does only big talk… I’ve done this, done that. Bribery is at its peak everywhere, especially at the lower-level bureaucracy],” said Mr. Sharma, though he admitted he has been a supporter of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

When asked about Mr. Modi putting his support behind Mr. Kumar, Mr. Sharma said, “Yes, but it will be better if the BJP has its own candidate as Chief Minister this time. Anyone can be a better Chief Minister than Nitish Kumar,” he said.

He responds with a hearty laugh when asked about prohibition. “You all know… it [liquor] is available everywhere. Visit our village market in the evening and see how effective Mr. Nitish Kumar’s prohibition is in villages,” he said.

Concerns around these issues echo among voters of Dedhgaon in the Dinara constituency of Sasaram district too. Retired Army jawan Harendra Kumar said, “I raise a challenge; if Mr. Kumar himself goes to a block office in disguise for any work to be done there and gets it done without paying any cut money to the officials or, if he can file an FIR without bribing policemen, I’ll go out in public with my face blackened.”

“The first term of Mr. Kumar was good. He was active and really wanted to do things for people living in villages but, nowadays he listens to only what his chamcha (sycophant) officials feed him,” he added.

Also read: Nitish Kumar is the face of the NDA, there is no credible alternative: Bashishtha Narayan Singh

Amarendra Singh, who runs a small hotel near the Sasaram railway station, says, “Let’s wait for the poll results to come. Mr. Kumar will realise then what is happening at the ground level.”

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 3:49:36 PM |

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