Bihar Ground Report: Who Has the Edge in Naxal-affected Arwal?
BJP’s ticket to Naxal-affected Arwal: Bulb, fan and disappointment in Nitish–Lalu Alliance.
Arwal, a town 90 km away from Patna, exemplifies the back of beyond.
The town hit the headlines recently when the stage collapsed during Lalu Prasad Yadav’s election rallies.
Carved from the neighboring Jehanabad in 2001, Arwal has often been in the news for all the wrong reasons; it has seen some of the worst caste wars in the late 1990s.
Arwal is notorious for being one of the worst Naxal-affected constituencies in Bihar. It is backward, devoid of industry, unemployment is high and crime is common.
The Quint travelled about 20 km away from Arwal on a dusty road to Saravti village to talk to voters.
In Saravti, the women don’t step out of their homes after one in the afternoon and even the men don’t step out after dark. Big shutters often dress doors.
Fear looms large. Satyendar Kumar says Bihar is the most backward state.
This is a Naxalite area. Bihar is the most backward state in India and Arwal has seen no development. But there will be development if the BJP comes to power because there is a BJP government at the centre. There are a lot of people who go out to work, there is nothing here, people will die of hunger and unemployment sitting at home. So we Biharis go to Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat to work.
— Satyendar Kumar, Resident, Saravti
Kumar now works a private job in Patna.
At Ram Janam Sharma’s house, I spotted a bulb and a fan. He is an ardent BJP supporter thanks to that bulb and fan.
There are some roads now and almost every house here has electricity, this is all because of the BJP. 10 years back it was very bad, lots of us were killed.
— Ram Janam Sharma, Resident, Saravti Village
Bindeshwar Sharma is 80 years old and was born and brought up in Saravti. He says Arwal has seen some very bad days.
The situation was very bad here. It was difficult to step out of the house even during the day, there was looting everywhere.
—Bindeshwar Sharma, Resident, Saravti
However, Sharma insists that Nitish Kumar changed the face of his hometown and things started looking up. But he is visibly upset with his favourite neta for joining hands with Lalu.
Under Nitish things became better, but now he has joined hands with Lalu, so if Nitish comes back to power with Lalu, we fear it will be back to jungle raaj. So we will vote for the BJP this time, because Nitish has fallen in with bad company.
—Bindeshwar Sharma, Resident, Saravti
Jitendra Kumar is quick to concur to the same view. He too was a Nitish fan, but not anymore.
There was jungle raaj here. Nitish did a lot of development but now he is with Lalu, so we wont vote for him. The way Modi has developed India, we want him to work in Bihar too. People couldn’t even step out to go the market, but our MLA Chitranjan Kumar has changed that, across all castes people will vote for him.
— Jitendra Kumar, Resident, Saravati
Lagan Devi dismisses what the men in the village have to say and has a mind of her own.
I don’t know what these people are talking about. I’ll tell you there has been no development. We get 5kg mazdoori and we survive on that. We don’t earn anything. Bihar is backward. But I will vote for the BJP, because the BJP doesn’t care about caste, they care about development.
— Lagan Devi, Resident, Saravti
Lagan Devi’s daughter Saraswati is 15 years old and goes to school.
The BJP will win, because only BJP can change Bihar, I know I saw it on TV. Modi has said it on TV that he will change Bihar. BJP will win.
—Sararwati Kumari, Resident, Saravati
She is not eligible to vote but she has her mind made up.
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