The road snaking through Terasiya tola has not been repaired in over two decades. Even a momentary squall fills its crater-like potholes with water. Yet, the residents of the Yadav-dominated village in Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav’s constituency Raghopur have few complaints against their representative. With the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) forming a government with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), they expect good times to finally arrive and hope the new dispensation lasts.
“Forget the village. If we talk about the region, the amount of work that Ram Vilas Paswan and Nitish Kumar did for the people, Lalu Prasad did not. But he gave us dignity and influence. No one who approached him during his reign for any work returned empty-handed,” says Lalit Kumar, a small-time businessman from the Yadav community.
Kumar says he has great respect for Nitish Kumar and is not disappointed that he took the chief minister’s post despite the JD(U) holding fewer seats than the RJD. “Tejashwi is right when he says Nitish is an able and experienced CM. When this alliance was first made in 2015 and won the polls comprehensively, we were very excited. But then, the BJP played its game. The alliance broke up because he was threatened he would be jailed like Lalu by implicating him in some case.”
Kumar’s neighbour Rajeev Rai, a sugar trader from the same community, believes the alliance has a good chance of defeating the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar. “Which party has the highest number of voters with it in Bihar? It is the RJD. It only needs that one extra spoon of curd to take over the entire bowl of milk. If they can manage that, they will topple any opposition in the state,” he says.
Both credit Nitish Kumar for building roads and strengthening law and order in the state, but accuse him of turning the state into a bureaucratic raj. “There is no sunwai (redressing complaints). Now, with the RJD in the mix, we are confident that the bureaucracy will become softer. During Lalu’s reign, if you used some influence, your work would get done. Now, nothing gets done without paying bribes,” says Rai.
Kumar blames the BJP for all the ills of Nitish’s reign. According to him, Modi only wants to divide the country and disturb social harmony. “He has become (North Korean dictator) Kim Jong-un.” Rajeev, however, disagrees, claiming that Modi is a sincere leader but is failing due to vested interests.
Other villagers hope the new government will now do something for Terasiya. “We believe some development will happen now. We have been ignored for 20 years. In the last (JDU-RJD) alliance, the moment things started happening, the government fell. This should endure,” says banana farmer Dev Anand Rai, who is also from the Yadav community.
His uncle Gola Rai says the only threat to the alliance is the BJP’s central leadership. “What if they open a case against Nitish and he has to go back again? How is it that all the honest people are in the BJP and all thieves are in the Opposition? This is the difference between Nitish and Lalu. Despite being jailed and consistently harassed, he has never compromised with his ideology.”
Some Yadavs, however, are disappointed about the political realignment and say Tejashwi should have bided his time.
“The BJP was slowly giving Nitish a political death. Tejashwi should have waited for him to be finished. But in his lust for an early ascent to the throne, he had to settle for far lesser than what he could have got. He has joined hands with the man who was responsible for putting Lalu Prasad in jail. No one has harmed the Yadavs more than Nitish. With his EBC (Extremely Backward Caste) card, he completely disenfranchised the Yadavs. His policy of control over sand mining, which is now happening only through bribes, has led to so many young Yadav men dying after being chased by the police,” says Panchu Rai.
Those from other non-Yadav communities in the village, such as Dalits and Mallaahs, say they largely vote for parties other than the RJD and want to see how the new alliance delivers on development and whether it does anything for the village. “Politicians worry about themselves, not for the people. A poor man is not heard in any regime,” says Mahesh Das, a Dalit.