The last Communist bastion in the Seemanchal is threatened this time. Ironically, the constituency of Balrampur steeped in poverty for decades has lately seen better days. And some development has made it possible to stop counter arguments on poverty a talking point, much to the discomfiture of Left parties.
The development, whatever it is, is just as much to divert people’s attention to ‘other matters’—some explained, some hard to explain. It is not as if, this is a sea of prosperity or even an oasis. Stark faces of the poor strike here as they do in any other area of Bihar. But such faces are fewer and far between, while the Left impact has been weakened over the years.
Snuggling between the borders of Bihar and Bengal, the Barsoi assembly constituency (now known as Balrampur after delimitation) had sent CPI (ML) candidates to the Bihar Vidhan Sabha for three consecutive terms beginning from 2000. However, this time around, ML nominee Mahboob Alam may not be all that successful in the debate over poverty due to the fact that strong governmental intervention has made some headway over the last few years.
Spanking new roads crisscrossing the constituency have changed the face of Barsoi. The entire area across the Mahananda river is still in the process of being connected with the mainstream of Katihar district.
The work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NAREGA) is clearly visible in terms of huge afforestation activities in the area, which has, in turn, provided employment to hundreds. Slipshod work could be spotted here and there but they are few and far between in comparison to the gigantic scale of activities taken up under the schemes.
The ‘Robin hood’ image of the ML candidate, which was earlier used to garner support of the impoverished and the poor, has lost its sheen. The constituents have become more developmental oriented and forward looking. This is the reason, why the September 30 verdict on Ayodhya title suit failed to make news in Balrampur, which is a Muslim dominated assembly segment in Katihar district.
No one, however knows here, whether the JD-U has claimed the right to represent it by arrangement with BJP or by default. But the party could reap some benefits of the development work here, that is for sure. However, what will worry the JD-U is the internecine feud between its workers and those of the BJP over the distribution of tickets. That compromises the chances of party candidate Mohammad Siddique. To add, after being denied nomination by the BJP, Dulal Chandra Goswami, who had won the seat in 1995 elections on a party ticket, has jumped into the ring as a rebel saffron candidate.
“Notwithstanding the development issue, the history of the constituency suggests that at the last moment the contest boils down to communal issues,” added Sikandar Yadav, a local businessman. Had the JD (U) candidate been a member of the majority community, the situation might have been slightly different, he felt.
To queer the pitch is LJP candidate Adil Hassan, whose name a segment of the voters chant, “Twinkle twinkle little star, Adil is a super star”.
A product of Law College, Pune, 26-year-old Adil is emerging as a youth icon in the constituency. Close to LJP national vice-president AA Karim, Hassan is well known in the area for his efforts to provide Government scholarships to pre and post matriculation Muslim students, many of whom were denied the facility earlier.
A host of other candidates including that of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have not been able to make their presence felt so far. But even that could change making it worthwhile to follow the goings on here till the last date.