Binda Devi is 92, Ramvilas Singh is 100 and Gena Bhagat is 95 years old. These faithful adherents to the democratic exercise voted to decide who would be the Vaishali representative in the 16th Lok Sabha. What is common among them is not just their seniority. They are proud of having never skipped any Lok Sabha election since Independence.
On Monday, Binda, her son Subir and grandson Diwesh, a first-time voter, proudly displayed their inked fingers. Binda walks with difficulty, with a stoop. She insisted on voting before lunch. Subir and Diwesh brought her to Chak Ramdas booth to keep her unbroken voting pattern intact. The three generations voted together at Chak Ramdas booth, the Vaishali Stupa nearby telling the story of a vibrant democracy.
Ramvilas Singh and Gena Bhagat were among the first to vote at Patedi-Belsar booth.
Ramvilas was brought to the booth by his son Raj Kishore, a retired jawan who is now with Special Auxiliary Police. Gena, who is a friend of Ramvilas, walked to the booth himself, aided by a walking stick. Gena recalled how he used to wrestle with Ramvilas and about having seen Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru in person. Gena, who used to work as a carpenter in Assam and Bihar, proudly showed his Assam cane walking stick. At the same booth, 96-year-old Chhaggan, who is hard of hearing, also cast his vote.
There was a good turnout of senior citizens, particularly aged over 70, and young voters. The turnout of women was encouraging and at Patedi-Belsar women accounted for about 50 per cent of the voters.
BJP ally LJP’s Ramakishore Singh, sitting RJD MP Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Vijay Kumar Sahni of JD(U) and Independent candidate Annu Shukla are the main contestants.
The discussion after polling included prospects of the BJP in Bihar facing a resurgent RJD and whether Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) would spring a surprise in several seats.
Booth officials said people above 70 years had taken great interest in voting. The turnout of women was also high. At Patedi-Belsar booth, women accounted for about 50 per cent of the voters. There were tents to save voters from the scorching sun.
Although voters seemed sharply divided along rigid caste lines, a substantial chunk of young voters rallying behind BJP’s prime minister-in-waiting Narendra Modi, seemed to have overcome some of it. First-time voters indulged in animated discussion after exercising their franchise, their talk peppered with hyperboles. “I perhaps did not wait with such eagerness to be born as I am waiting for the results,” said Manoj Kumar, who said corruption, inflation and unemployment were the issues and adds this election could be the beginning of softening of Bihar’s rigid caste factor.
Outside primary school Harsher under Guraul that had 1757 voters, Muslim and Hindu voters debate chances of Raghuvansh Prasad Singh. Mohammed Jamal talks about how Singh used his MPLAD funds. Ashok Kumar is unhappy that Singh was hardly seen in the constituency in the last five years.
“Giving electricity to some villages now and then is not good enough, Singh should have taken up the cause of bank loans to students,” says Amarjeet Kumar, a first-time voter.