“Kuchh bhi muft nahin milta. Aur hoga, to har pradesh mein hoga, keval Bihar mein nahin (Nothing is free. And, if at all it happens, it will be free for all states, not just for Bihar),” says Madan Paswan, 37, dismissive of the BJP’s promise of free Covid vaccine to Bihar. Sitting on a pathway in Dehradun’s Ghanta Ghar area, his stove, tea bags and sugar bottle spread out in front of him, the Darbhanga resident continues, “During the lockdown, Nitish first did not let migrants return, and then sprayed them with sanitisers like animals.”
With no opportunities in his village, Paswan moved to Dehradun for work 20 years ago. His tea-stall, which he sets up at 6 every morning, is frequented by migrant labourers from Bihar, most of whom are employed as construction workers.
“I have told both my children in Darbhanga to vote for a party which is committed to providing jobs, so that they don’t have to sell tea like me,” says Paswan, whose village falls under Darbhanga (Rural) seat.
In 2018, Paswan had taken a shop on rent and applied for loan under the Mudra Yojana to set up his own eatery. “But my application was rejected and I had to vacate the shop after paying Rs 24,000 in rent for three months. Since then I have been selling tea,” he says.
At Indira Colony, among the neighbourhoods where most of the migrant workers from Bihar stay, Rameshwar Yadav, who is busy watching election news on television, has the same anger against Nitish. “For months during the lockdown, four-five of us were cooped up in one room,” complains the mason from Bihar’s Siwan district.
During the same time, Rameshwar’s neighbour Harendra Ram queued up outside the Dehradun GPO to open an account to avail of the Bihar government’s Rs 1,000 cash transfer scheme for migrants. “I am yet to get any money. It’s the same for 10 others who live with me. I survived on the ration that I got at a police station. Finally, my family in Gopalganj transferred some money to me,” says Harendra who came from Sitamarhi nine years ago.
“Chirag Paswan has done the right thing by leaving the NDA. He will lead the state to change, but only if EVMs function properly,” laughs Harendra, adding, “I will remember demonetisation and the lockdown forever.”
Standing nearby, Surendra Yadav joins in. “I am backing Tejashwi Yadav (RJD). He is delivering impressive speeches like his father… I will vote to bring my caste, Yadav, in power,” says the construction worker.
Back at the Ghanta Ghar market, as the crowd begins to shrink, Paswan prepares to shift to nearby Paltan Bazaar. “I have seen both the RJD and JD(U) in power… Elections are like a gamble for these politicians, but it is poor people like me who always lose in the end,” he says, walking away.
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