Uday Narayan Chaudhary, 63, who has won the last six elections from Imamganj, claims credit for all the development during those years and says a sense of security has returned to the area, part of a Naxal belt.
Chaudhary, the Bihar assembly speaker and a Dalit leader close to Nitish Kumar, is likely to be field again by the JD(U). A number of Muslims in the area, formerly with the RJD, have joined the BJP after the RJD-JD(U) alliance, refusing to be associated with Chaudhary who they say is close to Naxals.
Chaudhary,who stresses “I don’t have a centimetre of land in my or any of my family members’ name”, describes his work. “I am an MLA from there since 1990 and whatever you see — roads, electricity, hospital — has happened during my time,” he said in Patna. “What takes a few hours by vehicle would once take an entire day because there wasn’t any road. And if the water levels went up, there was no way to travel.” There used to be three high schools, he said. “Today, there are 23 and 800 girls go there. Many of the daughters of the old landlords are also going to school for the first time.”
Describing the earlier days, he said, “Woh Kashmir jaisa hi alaqa hai (That area is like Kashmir). You couldn’t roam around the villages freely five years ago. In the 2010 elections, I didn’t even have a campaign office there. I didn’t have polling agents at the polling stations anywhere but I still won… I had kept a motorcycle and even in those difficult times, I would travel to villages on my motorbike. During elections, several of my party workers were killed.”
He denied links with Naxals. “I have fought against samant waad (feudalism) and bonded labour. I have been part of the bhoomi andolan for the landless. I have fought for the rights of poor and disadvantaged on forests,” he said. “They (Naxals) are fighting the same fight. The difference is that they do so violently while we do it through nonviolent means.”
Chaudhary said “a few” Muslims might have joined the BJP. “It doesn’t concern us because the minority community votes for us. They too have benefited from our developmental work,” he said. He said the Muslim families who have joined the BJP and are critical of him are “old landlords with old houses and old thinking”.
He said those opposing him have been the beneficiaries of feudalism and subjugation of the downtrodden. Choudhary belongs to the Pasi caste. “I am from Patna but have fought all my elections from this reserved seat”.
Choudhary said “the tyranny of caste would end only if the government makes inter-caste marriage a compulsory prerequisite for jobs”. Otherwise, he said, “there won’t be much change. Untouchability hasn’t gone. It is entrenched in the minds of people. It is because of Dr B R Ambedkar’s vision, otherwise there would have been mass murder of Dalits in the country… There was a real chance for Dalits to get justice when Dr Ambedkar was leading us.”