Nawada: “Yahan ladai sarkar bachane ka aur sarkar badalne ka hai,vidhayak chunne ka nahi hai (Here, the fight is about whether to save the incumbent government or to change it. This is not about electing an MLA),” says Mithlesh Yadav, a middle-aged owner of a roadside shop selling construction material. He also admits that caste will play an important role in this political battle.
“On the ground, it is visible that there is a direct fight between two powerful candidates belonging to the same Yadav caste. The ruling JD-U has fielded its sitting MLA Kaushal Yadav, a powerful sand mafia and the opposition RJD’s candidate is Vibha Devi, the wife of rape convict Rajballabh. But one set of people is hinting at supporting Nitish Kumar-led NDA government and another set is voicing their desire for change by supporting RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, the chief ministerial candidate of the Grand Alliance,” explained Mithilesh.
Many of the people in Nawada NewsClick spoke to asserted that lack of employment, need for migration to earn one’s livelihood, poor quality education and state of health facilities are some of the issues they want the leaders to focus on. Besides, the slow progress of development projects in Nawada town also irked people, who blamed the government's apathy.
According to Mithilesh, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD-U, which is part of the BJP-led NDA, is facing an anti-incumbency sentiment and that the people are fed up with the failures of the government. Meanwhile, the increasing popularity of Tejashwi is seeking many young voters, especially following his promise of providing 10 lakh jobs if and when he assumes power.
Mohsin Alam, a vendor near the Nawada railway station, says “Badlao ka hawa chal raha hai, hum bhi yahi chahte hai (I can sense the winds of change, which I favour as well).”Alam added that we will vote for Tejashwi and not for the candidate.
Similarly, Rameshar Manjhi, a rickshaw-puller taking rest under a tree near the main market, told NewsClick, “People are talking about formation of a new government led by Tejashwi. Let's see what happens ultimately.”
Umesh Kumar Singh, a contractual teacher in a government school, said he is a supporter of NDA, but is unhappy with Nitish Kumar who, he feels, has failed on all fronts in the last five years. “Nitish has disappointed people. His claims of development, rule of law and governance are far from truth. Corruption has become rampant.This government has failed in fulfilling its promises,” he said.
Singh, who belongs to the influential upper caste Bhumihar, admitted that supporters of NDA are not vocal this time due to the “Nitish factor”. “We want the return of the NDA government, but don’t want to support Nitish’s party as he has done nothing in the last few years except switching from RJD’s side to BJP’s to remain in power.”
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Many upper-caste voters like Singh, widely seen as traditional supporters of Nitish, are not vocal about their support of the lack of it this time “Nitish has ruled for long enough. It is time to change his government. There is anger against the government, anti-incumbency is visible on the ground,” said one Ramashankar Kumar.
Like the other Assembly constituencies in drought-prone Southern Bihar, a strong sense of anti-incumbency against the CM is palpable in Nawada. One of the major factors for this is the rising unemployment in the state. Understanding the severity of the impact of unemployment, the RJD, Congress and Left parties have been taking up during the campaigning several issues like joblessness, reverse migration and the failure of the government to provide work.
The Nawada Assembly constituency, which is an urban seat and the district headquarter of Nawada, continues to lag behind on the development front. There are nearly a dozen candidates in the fray in Nawada which will go to polls on October 28 in the first phase of the three-phase Bihar Assembly polls.
RJD’s candidate, Vibha Devi, is the wife of expelled former party MLA Rajballabh Yadav who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a minor girl. Yadav lost his membership of the Bihar Legislative Assembly following his conviction over two years ago.
Yadav has been known to be "dabang" (for his muscle power) and for illegal sand mining in Nawada. In the last Assembly polls of 2015, he won the seat after having won in 1995 as well as 2000. He contested Lok Sabha polls in 2014 from Nawada parliamentary seat, but was defeated by BJP leader Giriraj Singh, now a Union Minister, an emerging face of the Bhumihar politics in the state.
RJD's Vibha Devi is banking on the overwhelming support of Yadavs, Muslims and Dalits.
JD-U candidate Kaushal Yadav, who won the seat in the by-elections after Rajballabh’s conviction, is also known for his dabang image and runs lucrative sand business. He was imprisoned in 2014 in connection with an alleged sand mine fraud. Kaushal and Rajballabh have been traditional political rivals for the past two decades. Before Kaushal, his wife Purnima Yadav had won the seat in February 2005, November 2005 and 2010.
Interestingly, the LJP has fielded former BJP district president Shashibhushan Kumar Babloo, making the contest triangular in Nawada. Babloo is expected to cut into the votes of NDA, a clear loss for the JD-U candidate.
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