Travelling in the Bihar bound Vaishali express, i couldn’t help but overhear the conversation among groups of passengers. Participants were the usual suspects, migrant workers from Delhi and suburbs, traders, government servants, students, people in private jobs and others. Bored of the lengthy journey, i was strolling across the coaches. over the next eight hours, the dominant theme that emerged was politics. Contrary to perception, people of the cow belt are politically very aware.
The recent debacle of congress and drubbing of it’s Yuvraj is a hot topic. People think this is the start of the decline of congress era. Why do you think congress lost? i asked. “What’ve they actually done? name a thing”, says Falgun, one of the vocal one’s from the group. “Well, MNREGA, RTI, RTE, Food Security Bill etc”, i responded. “They sound good but nothing benefits us people, MNREGA money is scammed by officials, pradhans, contractors. People like us are leading the same life year after year”. Others nodded in agreement to Falgun’s response. Chai, Chai yelled a vendor as train slowed to a halt at Siwan station. People jumped out of bogies to refill their water bottles, buy snacks and fruits. I too went out for a rail neer bottle.
After 5 minutes the train chugged along. In the hurry, I had boarded the sleeper compartment next to mine. While moving towards my seat i crossed a group that had begun talking about the tragedy in Siwan that made national headlines. More than two dozen kids had died after they ate poisoned food in mid day meal at a primary school in a village here. “Kahe ka vikas, sab hawabazi hai (What development, its all hot air)”, said a middle aged man who seemed like a trader and had India Today and Outlook neatly folded under his bag. “Nitish claimed to have improved education, health, infrastructure and security. Today more than half of primary teachers do not even have basic knowledge to teach 5th class. Children are dying of mid day meals and some who could have been saved in Siwan died due to lack of proper care and medicines.” The man had a point. Firoz, who was listening from upper berth added, “Sir, there is no job, police lathicharges protesters be it students or on-contract teachers or farmers. Roads that were built in Nitish’s first term are broken now. We’re back where we started.” But, he stopped communal forces, quipped another young man sitting next to Firoz.
That statement! was like putting a burning matchstick on gunpowder. Almost instantaneously Modi was mentioned and arguments began flying. Frankly, i was surprised by the passions Modi was generating,someone who wasn’t even allowed to enter Bihar in last assembly elections. The arguments heated up and attracted a lot more participants. By the time i decided to move at least 30 people were talking, majority from Modi’s side. The gist was that Nitish got mandate to rule along with BJP. Instead of focusing on improving Bihar which should be his only job, he indulged in politics that did not concern Bihar.
Well, i was back at my seat. A few minutes later people sitting next to me asked if i was reporter? I said, yes! “We heard the discussion in the bogey you’re coming from”, Said Mr. Rajak who was travelling with his family. “Nitish, was wrong in breaking alliance with BJP. the administration is only going down since then”. Said Mr. Rajak while handing me few tiger biscuits. So what do you think about Modi? I asked. “He is the only one who can drag this country out of this mess. He has turned Gujarat in a good state. I’ll vote for him.” Well, Mr Rajak went on and on for some time, He sure was impressed with Modi.
After some time Muzaffarpur station arrived, my destination. A journalist friend of mine came to pick me up. As i got out of station, i saw a small shop selling tea and snacks with an old photo of Modi hanging by a wire. Maybe he was yet another tea vendor smitten by his chaiwallah story.
On the way home, my friend told me how hypocritical Nitish sounds when he terms Modi a fascist and Hitler when he himself is no less than a Hitler. A lot of important decisions are hanging only because he is unavailable. Media in Bihar is seriously suffocating under Nitish as he absolutely hates any negative coverage. Progress has completely stalled since BJP left as Nitish is holding 18 ministries none of which are functioning effectively. well, we reached home and i decided to take all the rest i can as from tomorrow my work starts.
I won’t translate views of just few random people i met during my journey as any thing conclusive, but one thing is for sure, the wave Nitish is so vehemently denying, exists and going by the mood is surely pro Modi and anti Nitish.