Bhagalpur is the third largest city in Bihar in league of resources like education, health etc. Historically significant as it is the land of rebellion against the British Raj led by tribal leader Tilka Manjhi; demographically with heterogeneous population and sociopolitically a right wing bastion.
Bihar’s Bhagalpur Lok Sabha constituency is voting on April 18 and is ready with mixed atmosphere of aspirations and expectations of the electorate with added twist and turns where the Rashtriya Janata Dal candidate Shailesh Kumar alias Bulo Mandal is fighting to retain his seat against Ajay Kumar Mandal of the Janatal Dal United (JDU) representing the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Since a decade and half, Bhagalpur was a tradtional BJP seat, this time it went to the JDU during the seat sharing in NDA. This mounted to dissatisfaction among the BJP supporters and local leaders and the tentative logic behind BJP handing over its aspiring seat to its ally JDU was to suppress the growing factionalism within Bihar BJP leadership.
The infighting is alleged among Shanhnawaz Hussain, former MP Bhagalpur vs Ashwini Choubey, Union Minister vs Nishikant Dubey, Lok Sabha MP from Godda in Jharkhand who hails from Kahalgaon. To avoid surfacing of the rift in open, BJP decided to do away with the seat.
Underlining question remains: Will it benefit the NDA supported JDU candidate Ajay Kumar Mandal or not?
Now that’s tricky situation as one section of NDA feel that local BJP leadership is not in full force campaigning for Ajay Mandal rather they only glued in for a roadshow just because it had presence of Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Modi who had represented Bhagalpur in Lok Sabha in the past.
And the other section argues that to see Narendra Modi as PM for second term, one can go to any extent in terms of support. Role of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Bhagalpur city can be last minute deciding factor.
NDA may bank heavily on the RSS and numerical strength of its traditional voters — Brahmins and Banias. Bhagalpur has deep roots of its majoritarian right politics in instances where the right wing movement used to be directly monitored by VD Savarkar and Shyama Prasad Mookherjee for ideological expansion.
Last year die-hard efforts of flaring up communal riots and tensions by Arijit Shashwat, son of BJP Union Minister Ashwini Choubey is one fresh example of communal polarization in Bihar’ silk city.
The Mahagthbandhan supported RJD candidate Bulo Mandal is confident of retaining his seat as per local sources but this certainly would be not be a cake walk anyways. If one looks back to join the votes of the BJP and JDU of 2014 election results who fought separately then, Bulo Mandal’s aspiration may get a big jolt as he may fall short by nearly more than one lakh votes.
Though entry of backward caste forces such as Jitan Manjhi, Upendra Kushwaha and Son of Mallah, Mukesh Sahni may boost chances for the RJD candidate so RJD supporters keep their fingers crossed but most likely result may spring a surprise in comparison to the previous one.
Critical issues aloof from election plank: Few issues have not been taken seriously by politicians and list follows-
Bhagalpur Silk Industry:
Bhagalpur once upon a time had enjoyed a reputation for its Bhagalpur Silk. It is home to the weaver’s community (Bunkar Samaj) based at outskirts of the city.
In conversation with Newsd, Professor of Law College under Tilka Majhi Bhagalpur University (TMBU), Chandresh considers its functioning unique as Hindus and Muslims have together nurtured the silk industry in a city which has been den of polarizing forces such as the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha.
The 1989 communal riots of Bhagalpur did harm the communal harmony of the weaving industry but somehow it came on track after years.
But the silk industry never became an election issue for any political party and neither its downfall bother the political class ever.
Banana, Maize and Mango Hub:
Large scale cultivation of banana in Naugachia area is another unnoticed segment which possesses potential to be a local industry.
Naugachia is also known as Kelanchal of Bihar (major producer of Bananas) which has the potential to supply improved variety of banana to Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Jharkhand and Bengal but it is prone to natural calamities like recurring floods. Juice, chips, chocolates, cakes and shampoo could be made from banana while its fibres can be used to manufacture threads, paper and jewellery.
Bananas apart, the Naugachia belt produces maize and is capable to have a food-processing unit hich could also help maize farmers in the region.
A mango variety of Bhagalpur is treated as fruit for VVIPs every year. As per Dashrath Shah, owner of a juice shop in Adampur market of Bhagalpur city- The Jardalu aam, a variety of mango famous in Bhagalpur region is every year dispatched to Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi for the President of India. The long standing tradition started way back when APJ Abdul Kalam was nation’s President. This mango variety is known for its light yellow skin and special aroma.
If a local variety of mango has such a demand, why its production and supply cannot be a state sponsored phenomenon asks, Dashrath Shah.
Unemployment and Development:
The ground situation of Nathnagar assembly segment (rural) under Bhagalpur Lok Sabha constituency shows a much dim picture. Youth based in villages are furious about physical absence of both the sitting MP and MLA who ironically are present day contenders i.e. Ajay Mandal (JDU MLA) and Bulo Mandal (Sitting RJD MP).
No emphasis on education and employment are complaints of rural population.
Apart from these, half repaired structure of Vikramsheela bridge in city and bypass adjoining the city are among challenges the residents face in day to day life.
Between electoral battle of Mandal Vs Mandal, crisis of unemployment, expectations on fruit and food processing industry and downfall of Bhagalpur silk industry have been diluted.
A markable conclusion remains- rural voters have shown more sensitivity than urban voters in pointing out the inactivity of their public representatives be it on any issue. Rest, the last say on Bhagalpur seat is in hands of people as saying in Hindi fits in best- Janata Hi Janardhan Hai.