Saturday, June 22, 2024

Voters’ diary: Muzaffarpur; a reflection on development and accountability

In the heartland of Bihar, where the pulse of politics beats loud and strong, lies the city of Muzaffarpur—a microcosm of the larger political landscape of India. Once a seat held by socialist stalwart George Fernandes, Muzaffarpur stands as a testament to the ever-changing tides of politics. As the people of Muzaffarpur prepare to cast their votes, they must confront not only the challenges of governance but also the moral dilemmas that lie at the heart of democracy.

The incumbent Member of Lok Sabha, Ajay Nishad, a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart from the Muzaffarpur district, during the throes of the pandemic, propagated hate speeches targeting the Tablighi Jamaat sect of Muslims under the guise of addressing COVID-related concerns. In a surprising turn of events, after being denied a Lok Sabha ticket by the BJP, Nishad switched allegiance to the Congress party, despite their ideological differences, revealing the complexities of political expediency where principles are often sacrificed at the altar of opportunism.

As a citizen and a voter, I have observed that the people of Muzaffarpur have numerous complaints regarding development, employment, and the operation of factories, as the city is among the main contributors to the economy of the state of Bihar. Despite its diverse and beautiful culture, waterlogged streets continue to be a persistent issue in the city, even amidst promises of ‘achche din aane wale hain’ (good days are coming) and ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ (Support for all, development for all).

The terminology of ‘Acche din’ has become subjective for the vendors and cart pullers of the kachi pakki sadak (unpaved road) of Muzaffarpur. In the oppressive heat, showers of rain bring days of relief for some and not so good days for vendors selling fruits and vegetables on both sides of the road.

A vendor, requesting anonymity, expresses his frustration by stating, “When it rains, it is certain that the city will flood. No engineer ever came to check whether the work is functioning properly or not.”

Gone are the days when large sections of youth and women were directed by the family or neighborhood patriarch to vote based on caste and creed. Today, youths in Muzaffarpur seem to be more concerned about issues rather than caste or party affiliations.

One local says, “People here vote for caste, they vote for parties, but still development is not apparent. Muzaffarpur became a smart city, but there’s no widening of roads! You installed traffic lights, but we are stuck in jams. One traffic lane opens while another remains jammed, and by then the signal changes.”

Sometimes, in the realm of government, procrastination is the norm, resulting in construction sites becoming symbols of governmental inefficiency and inaction.

Gola Road, a trader market in the city, had its road constructed last Durga Puja and was dug up just a few months later because the officials forgot to insert the pipes. Voters have three options: to vote for biradari (caste), vote for a party, or vote for issues!

Amidst these challenges, there is hope and determination among the people of Muzaffarpur, as Awadhesh Ji, a confectioner from the Aurai area of the city, says, “We will work to eat; otherwise, we will starve to death.”

Ultimately, the choice lies with the voters of Muzaffarpur. Will they re-elect Ajay Nishad, despite his controversial past and alleged work negligence, or will they place their faith in Raj Bhushan Nishad, the previous Congress candidate now contesting on a BJP ticket?

The way forward for Muslim voters in Muzaffarpur lies in demanding accountability and representation from their elected leaders, especially considering the controversial actions of Ajay Nishad and the Congress party’s decision to welcome him—a complex and challenging situation.

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