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Elections in Bihar: People, traffic, noise

By A Bihari Abroad
October 27, 2015 10:29 IST
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'The local administration is working overtime to improve voter turnout and take it beyond the 50% to 60% mark. This is evident from the massive advertising being done to propagate the same. Not a single government building is left standing without it being plastered with the Election Commission's posters and banners.'

A Bihari Abroad discovers festivity amidst electioneering on his return home.

Banners with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Saina Nehwal, Aamir Khan promoting the importance of the vote can be found across Bihar towns and cities. Photograph: Archana Masih/Rediff.comThe last time I was home in Bihar during the holidays was probably 20 years ago. I missed the hustle-bustle, which reaches a crescendo leading up to the biggest festival in these parts -- Durga Puja. The enthusiasm of the holidays and Dussera coupled with the euphoria of the elections made each town and village a maddening melee of people, traffic and noise.

The loudspeakers of the pandals, erected at every nook and corner with their prominently advertised 'DJ' music, out-drowned all other sounds in the vicinity. Music blaring from these speakers were a mix of Bhojpuri and Hindi bhajans. Hindi bhajans sung to the tunes of popular Bollywood numbers.

Durga Ma may have been overwhelmed this year not just by the shardhaalus (devotees)) flocking in reverence at the numerous pandals, but also by the imploring of various political candidates. Not at her feet, as they were busy making the rounds of the various mohallas in the city, particularly of those mohallas where the residents were from the same caste as them.

I get a sense of the loss of faith in the BJP from my driver, a staunch supporter of Hindutva and Modi. The last time I visited Bihar was before the Lok Sabha election. The driver, like many others, was surfboarding the Modi wave and was pretty vocal about his and his community's support for the BJP.

It was more a shock than surprise to have him now waxing eloquence about Nitish Kumar and not shying away from criticising Modi.

There was a time when the voter had a handful of election symbols to choose from. The most popular being the Palm and the Lotus. Now they have a plethora from the bigger parties like the Arrow, Lantern, Cycle to the obscure and amusing ones like Hockey and Ball, Bench, Pressure Cooker and others which have been selected by Independent candidates.

The local administration is working overtime to improve the voter turnout and take it beyond the 50% to 60% mark. This is evident from the massive advertising being done to propagate the same.

The roads and chowks are littered with hoardings and banners. Not a single government building is left standing without it being plastered with the Election Commission's posters and banners.

I hope the effort converts to the desired goal and not just for the benefit of the printing company and the contractor employed to dig up roads and pavements to place these banners.

The focus last week may have shifted towards the festivities, but after the Raavan vadh and the immersion of Durga Ma, followed by Muharram, Bihar and its people are back in election mode, back to their issues and chosen candidates. Their hope being that when Durga Ma opens her eyes again next year, their lives are better than what it was before the Vidhan Sabha elections of 2015.

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