In a state where caste calculations drive the polls, an alumnus from Oxford believes it is about time people in Bihar looked “beyond caste and voted for change”. Stating that the people of Bihar have very limited options, Manish Barriarr has himself joined the electoral race to provide an “alternative” to them while declaring that his plank will not be caste but development.
Barriarr, in his forties, has decided to fight as an Independent candidate from Bankipur constituency in Patna, a seat won by BJP’s Nitin Nabin in the 2015 polls. An IIFT graduate and a teacher at IMS, a training institute for CAT aspirants, Barriarr recently launched his party named VOXX.
Barriarr says people in Bihar are fed up with the current dispensation and want a way out. “If you move around in the state, you will see people complaining about Nitish Kumar’s poor governance. But when they look beyond him, they are fearful of the RJD whose regime made things worse in the state. Basically, they don’t have many options,” Barriarr said in an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com.
Ruing that Bihar yet remained a subject of ridicule outside and how political leaders of the state had only perpetuated that image with their irresponsible statements and conduct in public life, Barriarr said, “Biharis are true representatives of India. On the global stage, people of Bihar have achieved a lot. But when I see our leaders on TV debates or in public life, I feel ashamed. And this will not change unless people like us come forward.”
But how far can he go without a support base and given that caste remained a crucial deciding factor in the elections? “Had Abdul Kalam been alive and contested, would he have won or not? I believe he would have won, breaking the barrier of religion also. People vote for their caste when they don’t see any option. When people have the option to compare, they will always vote for the best. Chief Minister of Delhi, our Prime Minister and also Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar have, to an extent, managed to break the caste barrier in recent elections,” said Barriarr.
The elections in Bihar are being held at a time when the world is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. Sporting a mask, Barriarr has been campaigning door to door telling voters about what he can offer them. “Industrialisation, education, town planning. All this has to be done. Industries are not coming to Bihar because they will want local engineers, workers, staff. Now local talents have already migrated. This needs to be addressed. Our deputy chief minister says development in Bihar can happen only through agriculture. I disagree. Then they say industrialisation cannot happen because we don’t have land. Bihar, let me tell you, has enough land. It is the political will for development that is required.”
Barriarr said many of his students who have gone to good business schools and are working in corporate houses often call him and express their wish to return to their state. “But I have to tell them your state is still not ready. I promise them that if I succeed in politics, I will build an environment where they can proudly return and work in their state.”
Contesting elections is a costly affair, and for a new party raising fund is a challenge. Barriarr, however, does not want to make it about money. “I am not using any money for elections. So many portals have approached me for promoting with different packages and I have refused them all. My students and well wishers have recently made my personal website and they have started circulating it for small donations. I would like my election to become a people’s movement.”
The state will go to polls in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7. The results will be declared on November 10. And in case, the state throws a hung assembly, which side will Barriarr ally with if he wins his seat? “Honestly I have not thought about that. One thing is for sure, I would not side with a party that is not inclusive in nature.”
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