More than two years have gone by since the waters of Kosi river receded from Narpatganj, washing away many of the telltale signs of one of the worst floods ever witnessed in Bihar. But memories of the calamity remain etched in the minds of the survivors — and they intend to make them count when they vote in the upcoming assembly polls.
“The floods left us homeless,” says Gopal Rishideo, a resident of Narpatganj. “Many were left without any source of income or livelihood. The land has turned infertile, forcing people to migrate to make ends meet.”
Ghuran Yadav adds that most legislators from Araria district, among the worst affected by the floods, have done little to solve the problems left by the floods.
Thousands of people rendered homeless by the floods are still struggling to find shelter. Some 30,000 houses were destroyed after floodwaters swamped the area. But the reconstruction is proceeding at an excruciatingly slow pace; it will take years to be completed at this speed.
Opposition parties are highlighting the JDU-BJP coalition government’s failure to deal with the flood. “The tall claims of development by the government stands exposed in this constituency,” said Anil Kumar Yadav, the RJD nominee, who won from this seat in February 2005 but lost by a slender margin in November that year.
The February polls had thrown a hung assembly. Elections were held again in November, which ended the decade-and-a-half-old RJD rule in Bihar.
The BJP is busy setting its house in order after a revolt by the sitting MLA Janardan Yadav. Yadav, a local leader associated with the party for the past 35 years, is contesting as independent candidate this time.
BJP nominee Devyanti Yadav, widow of an outlaw, Bhagwan Yadav of Jogbani, is seen as a novice. But her supporters are hopeful of victory.
“This is the only constituency where Muslim population is relatively less than in other constituencies of Araria district,” said a BJP supporter.
Congress nominee Bharatendu Yadav also spends much of his time trying to convince people that the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre had allocated enough money for the reconstruction of flood ravaged areas, but the state government hasn’t used it. “The Kosi rehabilitation is a big issue for the people. We can only empathise with them because we have nothing in our control till we come to power,” he said.