‘No one is going to vote in Bihar’

September 18th, 2010

A conversation with an autorickshaw driver in delhi was revealing.

“You are from Bihar,” I stated, rather than asked him.

“How did you know?” he asked with a grin but answered the question himself: “I know. It must because of the way I speak”

“… and a very sweet lilt it is,” said I, anxious not to be misunderstood.

He was from Madhubani, the district that Jagannath Mishra belongs to and the heartland of fedualism. “There’s a drought there,’ he said.

I asked him what the political news from his village was.

“Well, no one is going to vote. They would like to vote for Nitish, but Lalu Prasad will win…” he said.

I pointed out the contradictions. “They won’t vote because of a drought? That’s silly. And how can Lalu Prasad win if the people vote for Nitish?”

“Ah, you don’t know Bihar,” he said. I confessed I didn’t.

“Nothing happens in Bihar because the people will it. Everything happens on directions from the bahubali (mafia). Nitish has done really good work. We think he should be given another five years – the roads, power, jobs…The way people talk about Bihar now…? They will have to eat their words if the state can have Nitish for another five years,” he said.

“So what’s the problem?” I saked a trifle impatiently.

“In Madhubani, people don’t have enough to eat. The government is making grain available but it is not available freely. You have to take somebody’s obligation to get ration. And then when the elections come, that obligation has to be repaid…” he explained.

What if Lalu came back?

“Then there is no hope,” he shook his head. “Gangs, criminals…”

Once he started talking about the paddy fields of Madhubani, it was like a breach in a dam. Words flowed out in a torrent.

“I haven’t lived there for 17 years. There is no safety, no regard for life. I’d like to go back, till the small plot of land my family has, set up a cottage industry… but what’s the point. People demand money even to let you exist. So I live here, in a slum but dream of the emerald fields of Madhubani..”

I had tears in my eyes when I got off the rickshaw.

del.icio.us:'No one is going to vote in Bihar' digg:'No one is going to vote in Bihar' newsvine:'No one is going to vote in Bihar' reddit:'No one is going to vote in Bihar' Y!:'No one is going to vote in Bihar'