Rabri faces uphill task in her fiefdom

 
The levy of Rs 15 was collected by self-styled extortionists. Since November 2005, Paswan says, he has not paid a single paise to any extortionist whenver he visited Patna.

The scene sums up how law and order has drastically improved in Bihar ever since the Lalu-Rabri regime was thrown out of power. “Believe it or not, but for the last five years I have not met any extortionists on my way to Patna. I don’t know how and where they have disappeared,” Paswan, sipping tea, tells Deccan Herald why he has become an ardent admirer of Nitish Kumar and why he will never vote for Rabri Devi, the RJD nominee from here.

But remind Paswan that his fellow casteman and Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan, too, is backing Rabri, the poor trader asks: “Does Paswan care for us? He meets only rich and prosperous. And has Rabri ever visited her constituency after winning from here thrice? She comes here only during the polls. But this time even Yadavs, the predominant community in this constituency, will not vote for her, as she never meets any of the voters from our area.”

Jag Lal Singh Yadav  says: “If we go to Patna to meet Rabri, her security guards will shoo us away as if we are beggars. And now when the poll time has come, she is visiting door to door asking for forgiveness. These days she is touching the feet of all the elders, and eventually asking for khoincha (a rural social tradition where villagers welcome brides and daughter-in-law and treat them with auspicious items).”

But the poor rural folks are not ready to forgive Rabri. “It’s our custom that if somebody comes with folded hands, we don’t denigrate him/her. So we will give Rabri her khoincha and tell her not to come again,” said Shivji Rai.

Rai’s angst is quite understandable as he feels Rabri neither ever cared for her constituency, nor her constituents. “If you had come five years ago, you would have suffered spine problem, so pathetic was the road condition here. But now see the smooth roads. Nitish deserves a reward and, therefore, we have decided to back his (JD-U) nominee Satish Rai (who lost to Rabri in 2005 by 5,000 votes) to the hilt,” Shivji Rai makes a clean breast.

Meanwhile, Lalu, who is banking heavily on the MY (Muslim-Yadav) combination has one more reason to worry. His minority votebank, too, is on a slippery ground.

But then, there are certain pockets in Raghopur where Rabri continues to hold sway. “If we can’t ensure her victory, the whole world will laugh at us… as to how we could not make a former CM win from her bastion,” Kaushal Kishore Singh, a Rajput, avers.

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