A sprawling state on Gangetic plains in the east, Bihar has for many years held the dubious distinction of being one of the poorest, violent and corrupt states in the country. Now, with the highly charged assembly elections coming to a close, it longs for an escape from these evils – whichever party comes to power.
“There is madness about who will come to power in Bihar. We don’t need this poll frenzy, we need development and an end to corruption,” said Ravi Kumar, a fruit vendor who stationed himself near Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on Friday morning.
The state’s capital, Patna, stands last in the Swachh Bharat rankings of capital cities in the country. The Swachh Bharat Mission is the Narendra Modi-led government’s flagship cleanliness project. Asked about the state of affairs, Kumar said: “Only when the political leaders shift their focus away from fighting and one-upmanship, will these things get attention.”
Bihar’s bitterly-contested staggered elections ended on Thursday evening, with exit polls sharply split on who would get to rule the state: the BJP-led alliance led by Prime Minister Modi or the chief minister Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance. While television sets buzzed with the exit polls frenzy till late on Thursday, many on the streets remained nonchalant on Friday morning.
“We need a government that worries for us. Such a government has only been in our dreams so far,” said Navneet Singh, a student who stopped at Ravi Kumar’s stall on his way to his tuition classes. “The exit polls are talking about who may come to power, but not what the new government must do for the people,” he added.
The state witnessed a mini-turnaround under the Kumar’s chief ministership. The change was touted as an example of how the region can rise above caste politics and promote development and security. But it didn’t go all the way through, according to Ramesh, a security guard who works at a restaurant. “Nitish did good work in his beginning years, but that slowed down. Now, teaming up with Lalu who brought jungle raj to Bihar, he lost the respect of a lot of people,” he said.
On a road close to the chief minister’s residence in Patna can be seen huge banners of BJP president Amit Shah and Modi, calling for people’s support to “end Bihar’s misery”. In the bitterly fought elections -- the result predictions for which have befuddled even the biggest poll pundits -- Modi promised good governance, jobs and development.
“If Modi is winning, so be it, but we need him to work for Bihar. The common man doesn’t need politics; he needs food, jobs and safety. The people have high hopes, especially after the election campaign spoke about development so much,” Ramesh, who goes by his first name, said.
However, it’s not just the party leaders; the mindset of some of Bihar’s people also paints a picture of how politically charged the region is. “If Lalu gets power again, he will take care of his people. Many people are waiting for this to happen.”
While exit polls are split and confusion over the results is the order of the day, Sonu Singh, a cab driver who hails from Begusarai and works in Patna, seems to have a good idea about them: “(Maha) Gathbandhan ka zor hai… Inke log aaenge lag raha hai.”
In their bid to convince voters, politicians have stirred them with promises of jobs and development in one of the country’s most backward areas. The bellwether of national politics will now have to lead the way on the path of progress with a “dream” government.
Full coverage: Battle for Bihar