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'I Am Here To Be With My People'

Last updated on: April 10, 2024 18:51 IST

Rohini Acharya, Lalu Yadav's daughter who donated her kidney to her father in December 2022, is on her introductory campaign trail in the constituency that has been represented by her father four times.

Archana Masih/ reports from Bankerwa, Bihar.

IMAGE: Rohini Acharya, Lalu Prasad Yadav's daughter and the Rashtriya Janata Dal candidate from Saran, at a road show in Bankerwa. Photographs and Video: Archana Masih/

"I am here to be with my people," says Rohini Acharya, bending down from the sun-roof of the car, straining her voice so that she is heard over the loud campaign songs in Bhojpuri playing out from large loudspeakers on the road beside a temple in Bankerwa village, Saran Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar.

Standing in the SUV as it slowly moves through the well-paved road, she folds her hands in a Namaste, bows her head, waves out to the villagers as three boys rain marigold petals from a JCB earth-mover.

The party flag flutters on the JCB parked by the roadside and atop the house on the opposite side. The road is covered with marigold petals; the roof of the car layered with garlands as motorcycle riders with RJD flags flank the SUV and a small convoy of cars follow.

Rohini Acharya, Lalu Yadav's daughter who donated her kidney to her father in December 2022, is on her introductory campaign trail in the constituency that has been represented by her father, former Bihar chief minister and Union railway minister four times in Parliament [1977, 1989, 2004, 2009].

The fourth of Lalu's children to enter the political arena, this is her first election where she is attempting to wrest Saran from the Bharatiya Janata Party's Rajiv Pratap Rudy who has held the seat continuously for the last decade, and in 1996 and 1999.

She wears a RJD stole around her neck over her dupatta. People stand on the roadside, the women in a large group are pressed against each other near the temple, craning their necks to get a good look of the daughter who is seeking votes in her father's name.

IMAGE: The JCB throws flowers on Rohini Acharya's convoy.

As the convoy moves on, the crowd disperses quickly within minutes; the loudspeakers are taken down, the JCB rumbles away as the evening sets in.

"We were told she was going to come here today and the speakers were set up in the morning. We know she is Laluji's daughter and came to know that she donated her kidney to him through social media on our phone," says Mamata Kumari, speaking in Hindi, holding a mobile phone, as she made her way back to her dilapidated house after the convoy passes on.

The roof of Mamata Kumari's home is shaky and risks collapse. The temperature has hit nearly 40 degrees in this part of north Bihar. The family carry their cots on the road which is made on a baandh (a mud obstacle constructed to prevent flood waters from submerging the village) to sleep at night.

"Since there are hardly any vehicles on the road in the night, it is safe. It is also cooler," she says.

IMAGE: Babita Devi outside her house.

The women in the group say they have no toilets in their home and go to the fields across the road to relieve themselves.

"If you are the bahu, then you have to go out even earlier -- before dawn -- because daughters-in-law have to maintain some sort of decorum," says Mamata Kumari.

"Those who have toilets are the well off. They say they have built it themselves, but they know people in power and have availed government schemes meant for the poor," allege the throng of women, completing each other's sentences.

They do not have television sets and get information through their phones. "Ab toh social media chal raha hai" [Social media is more popular these days]," says Mamata Kumari.

"We watch some songs, not much news."

"Do you watch cooking videos?" I ask?

"Why do we need to watch others cooking, when we can cook ourselves? I don't understand this fashion of watching other people cook!" exclaims Pratima Kumari who lives on the other side of the village and is soon to be married to a man from Patna.

"Women can understand the problems of women. I can only hope the same of Lalu ji's daughter if she were to win."

"Tell me, why don't politicians or the media come to look at our condition in the village?" she asks bluntly.

IMAGE: Mamta Kumari in yellow, second from left, outside her home.

The women complain that they don't have Below Poverty Line cards neither do they have cooking gas cylinders [under the central government scheme] or the Indira Awas Yojana, still referring to the rural housing scheme by the name given by the Congress government rather than the renamed Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana that provides housing to the rural poor.

There is no piped water inside many homes and the tap that has been installed in the village by the government only has running water when there is electricity.

"Nal hai par jal nahin," laughs a young school-going girl pointing to the tap which incidentally had running water at that time.

The water had no outlet and had formed a frothy, stagnant, pool near the tap.

Mamata Kumari's extended family fetch water from a hand pump on the other side of the road.

IMAGE: A view of cow dung cakes outside a house.

Only 10% people in this village have toilets or cooking gas, says Vikram Kumar Yadav, the only young man in the group of women who has stayed back to listen to the conversation.

"We cook on a chulha [earthen stove] using dry grass, wood and cow dung cakes," says Babita Devi, wife of a farm labourer and mother of five children.

Her hut is made of bricks loosely stacked together. The roof is made of dry grass and bamboo strips. There are two beds inside the one room hut, a plastic mosquito net covers the larger bed. A string along the wall serves as a cupboard with the family's clothes hung, layer over layer.

The mud chulha is outside the hut in the open. Babita Devi had made rice, dal and mashed potato for lunch and would send one of her children to buy some vegetables for the evening meal.

"Neta log come when they want our votes, but don't look back once they are elected," chimes another woman in the group as they congregate outside the house.

IMAGE: A view of the village.

Since there is no public transport to Parsa, the divisional headquarters, most village residents use a bicycle which takes about half an hour; the others walk.

All the women gathered there said their families are in debt.

"I don't have any debt!" says a man who had just joined the group. He works as a driver in Gujarat and comes home to the village for two months in a year.

Many men from the village work in Gujarat for a living, he says.

"With no factory, no jobs, we need some way to earn so people have to go outside," says Mamata Kumari giving a tour of the village where dried cow dung cakes are stacked in between the huts. Cows are tied under the tree and women talk to each other outside their huts.

IMAGE: The villagers pose for a photograph.

"Hamara BPL bhi pass nahi hua hai. Log bas raja maharaja ki suntey hai, hum gareeb dukhiyara log ka kaun sunvaiye nahi hai [only the rich are heard, no one can hear the poor]," says Sandhya.

"The only good thing that has happened is this road which was made 2-3 years ago," says Mamata.

"There has been no other change."

"Big politicians cross this road; but don't step down to see the hardships we endure in our daily lives."

WATCH: Rohini Acharya On Her Campaign Trail