Believe it or not, there is no electricity in Lok Janshakti Party’s chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s native village…”Development is not an issue. What matters is caste… electricity or lantern age is not going to decide the polls outcome,” said Mahesh Singh of Khagaria town in Bihar….
Although Paswan is rubbing shoulders with BJP’s Prime Ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi, his native village Shaharbanni in Khagaria district is still in the lantern age. This is in sharp contrast to development in Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s native village Kalyanbigha in Nalanda district and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad’s Phulwaria in Gopalganj district. Paswan has often reminded people during campaigning that he is a “son of the soil”, but the fact is that he last visited his village in 2007 when his mother Siya Devi passed away. Interestingly, his first wife Raj Kumari Devi, whom he claims to have divorced in 1981, still lives in his native village, though outsiders are not allowed to meet her.
There is no electricity in 44 revenue villages of 21 panchayats in Alauli block, more than four and half decades after Paswan was elected as a legislator from the Alauli assembly seat, now part of the flood-prone Khagaria parliamentary seat. “It is a curse to live without electricity. Politicians have hardly shown interest to provide basic infrastructure like electricity to us,” says Shayamnandan Sada, who belongs to the Mushhar community, a Mahadalit, the poorest among Dalits. Paswan’s younger brother Pasupati Kumar Paras has represented Alauli in the State assembly for over two decades. He was defeated in 2010 assembly polls.
“Alauli did not see much of development during Paras’s tenure as a legislator,” said Sada, a school teacher. It is not only Alauli, but people of nearly 50 of 129 panchayats in Khagaria are living without electricity. Jainarain Yadav, a resident of Alauli, said people have become habituated to living without electricity. A district official told IANS that there are dozens of villages in Khagaria where people await electricity connections. Nitish Kumar, while campaigning in support of his JD-U candidate and sitting MP from Khagaria, Dinesh Chandra Yadav, had taunted Lalu Prasad for trying to tackle darkness with his lantern (RJD’s election symbol), while noting the availability of power in the State has gone up from 700 MW in 2005 to 2,400 MW in 2014. Janata Dal-United leaders hoped that the construction of a new power grid at Haripur in Alauli will help them garner votes in the election season.
The party was also hopeful of get the support of a section of Yadavs, a major chunk of Mahadalits and extreme backward castes. The RJD had fielded Krishna Yadav, the second wife of criminal turned politician Ranvir Yadav. The party was banking upon the Yadav and Muslim votes. LJP candidate Mahboob Ali Qaiser eyed the support of Paswan’s castemen – Dusadhs as well as Muslims, the backward Koeris, castemen of Rashtriya Lok Samta Party chief Upendra Kushwaha and social support base of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Dusadhs and Koeris have a sizeable population in Khagaria. The LJP and RLSP have joined hands with the BJP to contest polls in Bihar. Mahesh Singh in Khagaria town said elections in the region are contested on the caste plank, and demands for electricity find little resonance with the political leadership. “Development is not an issue. What matters is caste… electricity or lantern age is not going to decide the polls outcome,” Singh said.