Motihari was where Mahatma Gandhi sparked off the movement against indigo cultivation that led to Satyagraha. It was also where English author George Orwell was born.
History aside, this nerve centre of Purvi Champaran Lok Sabha constituency has little to cheer about. Poverty, backwardness and law and order issues — the border with Nepal is close by —have dogged the area. The scenario is similar to what the town’s most famous literary son described as Orwellian.
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For decades, people here have been resigned to their fate – hopelessness caused by bids to control the limited resources of the area. Things haven’t improved much, and the likes of Rakesh Singh, a 20-year-old science student, yearn for quality education that ensures jobs.
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Shivraj Singh Chouhan evoked Gandhi’s ideals and sought to bring the campaign alive by promising to give what Motihari has sought for long – a central university campus.
But many feel the personality-based clash could take the constituency back to square one. For the likes of Shivnath Thakur, 48, Modi seems to matter more than BJP, as do chief minister Nitish Kumar for Janata Dal-United and Lalu Prasad for Rashtriya Janata Dal.
“The local candidate has become redundant this time. You cannot expect Modi to focus on local issues, but he promises to show the way out of this hopelessness,” says Parmanand Shukla, 65.
The predominantly agrarian constituency hopes the new government gives attention to the woes of sugarcane growers facing problems because of a crisis-struck sugar industry.
“Agriculture here needs the kind of revolution that Mahatma Gandhi initiated against indigo cultivation,” says Deonath Sharma, who had to dispose off his sugarcane stock at throwaway prices. “It is hoped that Modi will somehow help improve the situation here,” he adds.
Gauging the public mood, BJP candidate Radha Mohan Singh has admitted to having committed some mistakes and sought forgiveness “for the sake of the nation”.
But others are in no mood to let things drift the BJP way. “Nitish Kumar deserves our vote for what he has done, and promises to do,” says JD-U candidate Avaneesh Kumar Singh, who was earlier with BJP.