“He once barged into the Ekma BDO’s chamber, caught him by the scruff of his neck and dragged him out before the villagers of Panchua only to promise them that the road that goes past the village would be built in double quick time,” said retired Kolkata Electricity Supply Undertaking technician Brahmdeo Pathak.
The man he is talking about is Manoranjan Singh alias Dhumal Singh, the JD(U) candidate in Ekma in Saran district. And here is the other face of the man.
“He is nothing less than a messiah for us. He used his own money to build the Basahi bridge over the Saryu river after it collapsed. The 23-km Ekma-Sahajitpur road came up in fast after he made clear to the rural development department engineers that it must be built within the sanctioned timeframe. A delay, he warned them, would cost them dear. Not surprisingly, the road was completed well before the sanctioned time-span ran out,” said Rajesh Singh, a graduate of Rajendra College, Chapra.
The Ekma-Sahajitpur road was full of pot-holes. “That is because it has not been repaired even once in the four years since it was built. We cannot expect him to see to the road’s repair; he is a busy man. That he cared to have it built is enough for us,” Singh said.
Getting block officials to attest caste certificates, updating below-poverty-line lists, verifying stocks of public distribution scheme licensees, ensuring that Ekma’s poor regularly get kerosene and sugar are all on the credit side of Dhumal Singh’s books.
His RJD rival, Kameshwar Kumar Singh, is not half as aggressive. Nor is he inclined to bail residents out of their difficulties. “He is rarely at home, most of the time he is away at either Chapra or Patna. Even when at home, he is hardly approachable,” said Rajmangal Singh of Seduar village.
His campaign office at the Janata Bazar, well-lit and with fans purring in all corners, was strangely silent, hardly appearing to be of someone contesting an assembly election.
Ekma’s Yadavs and various economically backward castes are firmly by his side, as are the relatively few Muslims. But this is a constituency dominated by the upper castes — the Rajputs, Bhumihars and Brahmins. And among them Dhumal Singh is a hero.