“A few years ago he used to move in a rickety scooter. Today he zips about in a Bolero”.
This is Mohammed Islam Quareshi’s observation on his headman at village Sabutar in Bihar’s Purnea district, 325 km from Patna.
Sabutar, a predominantly Muslim-dominated hamlet with about 2,000 voters, has a public distribution outlet that gives out nothing but rotten grain.
There are two aanganwadi (centres for mother- and child-care), where the shiksha mitras (volunteers) are themselves unlettered.
Villagers say that none of the BPL families has got the money to build toilets — or diesel subsidy — after the monsoons failed. The two madarsas (education centres) in the village remain in a dilapidated state.
“After the elections are over, we are left to wallow in our miserable state,” said Maulana Abdul Ghaffar, a daily wage-earner. It is here Ghaffar’s complaint squares well with the observation of Quareshi.
Though Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ushered in development in most areas, good governance is not visible everywhere. The village falls in Purnea constituency, represented by Raj Kishore Kesri of the BJP. He is contesting this time also.
After the Ayodhya verdict, the minorities are no longer sure that they should throw in their lot with the JD (U)-BJP combine. “In all probability, the Muslim votes will get split between the JD (U), RJD and the Congress,” historian Rameshwar Prasad says. He adds the rider: “Don’t expect the Muslim voters to reveal their minds until the last hour.”
The mood at Sabutar is academic. “The political class is all the same. Sometimes the afsarshahi (bureaucracy) prevails; sometimes the goonda raj is let loose. The poor continue to pay bribes, are ... beaten at the slightest pretext. Only the children of the rich get education in English-medium schools,” said villager Nafiz Alam.