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At Mumbai’s Bihari Tekdi, Tejashwi’s job plank resonates but Modi’s face sells

While most of the residents in the locality hail from Mithilanchal, a traditional BJP stronghold, many agreed that Tejashwi Yadav’s employment poll plank had resonated with them making him the new poster boy for these migrant families.

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | November 11, 2020 2:54:32 am
Mumbai’s Bihari Tekdi, Tejashwi’s job plank , Bihar election, Bihar migrant workers, Mumbai news, Indian express newsRJD leader Tejashwi Yadav

Just as the BJP and the RJD were slogging it out for the top spot in Bihar, there was an air of quiet anticipation at Mumbai’s Bihari Tekdi — a settlement of 20,000-odd Bihari migrant workers at Poinsur in Kandivali.

Several households here were glued to the television sets the entire day as numbers continued to trickle in.

While most of the residents in the locality hail from Mithilanchal, a traditional BJP stronghold, many agreed that Tejashwi Yadav’s employment poll plank had resonated with them making him the new poster boy for these migrant families. However, the popular belief is that the RJD’s chequered past may have come in Tejashwi’s way. The RJD leader has promised to generate 10 lakh jobs if elected to power.

“Going by past experience, people found it difficult to repose faith in the RJD. Tejashwi’s campaign resonated with young migrants, but it is also a fact that unemployment and migration has peaked during Lalu Yadav’s regime in the nineties,” said Rakesh Jha (35), a businessman who works in the construction sector. Jha’s family is a native of the Sursand town in Sitamarhi district.

Lalit Chaudhary, a driver, who came to Mumbai two decades ago, echoed Jha’s sentiment. “The job issue is relevant, but how do we forget the past. How does one forget the climate of fear that had led to the exodus during Lalu’s regime.”

Chaudhary, a resident of Darbhanga district, who had returned to Bihar during the Covid pandemic, claimed “there was anger against Nitish Kumar-led government for mishandling the Covid crisis” but the Modi factor may have swayed the voters.

Khelan Yadav, who travelled to Madhubani district for the polls, however, claims that the poll outcome was surprising. “Bihar mein badlav ki leher thi. Phir na jaane kya hua. (Bihar was poised for change. Who knows what happened there after),” he said. Yadav claimed to have campaigned for RJD at his own expense.

Sanjay Nirupam, Congress’s star campaigner for the polls, agreed. “What we saw on the ground (in Bihar) was a mood for change. We’ll introspect on why this did not translate into votes. Tejashwi led an impressive campaign,” Nirupam said.

However, Congress insiders admitted that the party’s own poll campaign lacked cohesiveness, with the local leadership often being sidelined by observers sent by the party high command.

But Shivkumar Jha, BJP’s sitting corporator of a civic ward at Bihari Tekdi, who even arranged for voters from this Mumbai locality to travel to Bihar, said that the Modi factor and Nitish Kumar’s “proven track record” helped NDA sail through. “After 15 years, there was bound to be some anti incumbency. There was some anger over the handling of the Covid issue. But people did not have faith in the RJD alternative,” he said.

Phool Singh, chairman of the BJP’s Bihari Prakoshth in Mumbai, said, “While the exit polls had projected an RJD win, we knew that the voters did not trust the RJD. After all, the migration graph had only peaked during the Lalu regime.” Singh, who works in the film industry, has been campaigning for the party in Patna the past five months.

Activist Rohan Jha, whose Jai Jawan Seva Foundation strives for employment of the migrants, said that “unemployment” had played a role in this election. “Modi factor may have saved the day for the National Democratic Alliance, but the new government that comes to power will have to focus on development, employment. Voters have given a clear verdict in this charge.”

Social activist Sanjay Jha said, “Nitish Kumar failed to deliver on his development plank. People were angered and Tejashwi emerged as a viable alternative. But the Modi factor may have worked in NDA’s favour.”

Unemployment rate in Bihar is 12 per cent, which is almost double the national average.

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