This part of Bihar has changed under Nitish Kumar’s rule, most residents of Shakurabad village 10 km from the Patna-Gaya highway will tell you.
But cynicism and dissatisfaction lurk below the surface. “If you have R1,000 in your pocket, you're sure it won’t be snatched by criminals,” said village resident Bhola Thakur. “But that money now goes to the babus (corrupt officials). A new breed of criminals who hurt with the pen dominate the countryside,” he said.
Shakurabad is among the villages in southwest Bihar’s Jehanabad district that go to the polls in the fifth phase on Tuesday.
Jitendra Kumar, another Shakurabad resident, bought a bus, hoping to ply it between Gaya and Patna through Jehanabad, and make some money. “But babus in the transport office asked for R25,000 to process the papers,” Jitendra said. “That is a big amount in addition to the bank loan I am paying.”
His bus is idle and gathering rust.
Elsewhere in the distict, thatched hutments of Dalit families on both sides of the Jehanabad-Tehta More bypass greet visitors near Amayan — a village of about 3,000 families. Located between Jehanabad and Newari, Amayan is the native village of Ramashraya Prasad Singh, MLC, power minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet and a seasoned politician of the district.
But residents of his village are not sure about backing the JD(U)-BJP combine.
At Newari, 7 km away, people have access to good roads, 16 to 18 hours of electricity per day and other amenities, Madan Sharma, an upper caste landowner and Amayan resident, said. “But our agitations for repairing roads and burnt transformers seldom move the authorities,” he said.
“While we are denied basic facilities because of our birth in an upper caste, the condition of Dalit families has not improved either,” said Awadesh Singh, another villager.
In the district’s important Jehanabad constituency, sitting RJD MLA Sachidanand Yadav is pitted against JD(U)’s Abhiram Sharma and Congress’s Ram Sinha.