No colour in Madhubani

The Madhubani region of Bihar is famous for its paintings. But plagued by floods, unemployment, migration and diseases, not much by way of colour remains here.

Isolated villages still reverberate with the singing of women as they paint to meet the demands of the festive season. But even that, like everything else here, is seasonal.

The new crop of artistes is frustrated. "It's just a source of livelihood. To boot, that's no poll issue," said Ranjit Karan.

The other two Ms that once defined the region — makhana (lotus seeds) and mango cultivation — have fallen on bad times.

But preserving tradition is not the main worry for people here. They are upset with the lack of job opportunities.

The Khadi Gramudyog, which once had a turnover in crores of rupees, is struggling to survive. "The Pandaul Cotton Mill remains closed, as are the Sakri and Lohat Sugar mills. With employment opportunities shrinking, migration has boomed," complained Shatinath Jha.

After delimitation, the Madhubani assembly seat includes parts of Pandaul and Rahika.

With 15 per cent Muslim vote up for grabs, the RJD has fielded  Naiyar Azam. The party has never won this seat. But Azam, who won thrice from Pandaul before losing to the BJP's Ramdeo Mahto in November 2005, is working hard. "Azam is a strong candidate. I will certainly vote for him," said Mohammad Mokeem of Sakri.

There are 19 candidates in the fray, including Sanjay Mahto of the  BSP and Santosh Kumar Mahto of the NCP. The Congress has fielded Kishore Kumar Jha, who usually stays in Delhi.

Ramdeo Mahto is confident. But with anger against the  JD(U)-BJP government running high, this strength could turn out to be his undoing.


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