The confused Sahebs of Patna: Victim of media’s disinformation campaign


Soroor Ahmed


Unlike Patliputra parliamentary constituency Patna Saheb is one of the most urbanized seats of Bihar with highest concentration of upper castes and strong middle- and lower-middle class population.

According to a rough estimate upper castes form more than one-fourth of the population. It is perhaps the only seat in the state where Kayasthas have a sizeable presence, so the two main parties, the BJP and Janata Dal (United), have given ticket to this caste––cine-star Shatrughan Sinha and Padma Shri and famous physician, Dr Gopal Prasad Sinha.

But after the delimitation of the constituency the eastern boundary extents to Bakhtiarpur, which has a big Yadav population.

So like Kayasthas, Yadavs too are the deciding factor in the poll. Among the upper castes Bhumihars too form a sizeable votes. But Patna has a big chunk of Bania and Marwari voters too and the BJP is looking forward to get their votes. The constituency has been named after the birthplace of Guru Govind Singh and there are some Sikhs too here.

Besides, there are about two lakh Muslim votes, which in spite of the best effort of the Nitish government to influence the community leaders, is likely to go to the Congress.

Thus the election is likely to boil down to the direct contest between BJP’s Bihari Babu and Bhojpuri film-star and the Congress candidate, Kunal Singh, a Yadav. He is the son of former senior Congress leader, Budhadev Singh from Paliganj and enjoys the full backing of alliance partner, the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

However, former minister and social activist Parween Amanullah of Aam Admi Party and Dr Sinha are working hard to make the battle more nail-biting.

While Shotgun is a big name and the urban Patna is always a BJP bastion, the saffron party can hope to do well. Even in the 1995 Assembly election, when there was a big Lalu wave and the BJP performed very badly, it won Patna West, Patna Central and Patna East seats.

Though the caste equation as well as other factors, such as the presence of Narendra Modi, may tilt the balance in favour of the BJP the truth is that there is anti-incumbency factor against its candidate too.

What is more, in 2009 the BJP fought the election in alliance with the Janata Dal (United) whereas the Congress and RJD contested separately. In fact it was LJP-RJD alliance then.

So unlike in the past the BJP leaders and workers are toiling very hard this time. Any complacency or over-reliance on NaMo wave may lead to the defeat of Shatru, who is facing enemies from within too.
The Janata Dal (United) is still hoping to get the support of some Kayasthas (because of the caste of candidate). It is expecting that Mahadalit, Kurmi and some Koeri, Kahar, Chayen, Dhanuk etc would votes. The BJP is trying to woo some Extremely Backward Castes votes to its side, but no party can claim full monopoly on them here. Even the Congress and Aam Admi Party candidates are getting some such votes.

To be honest to Bihari Babu, one can not expect a big film personality like him to listen to the daily grievances of the voters, who are becoming more and more demanding.

Though the urban voters claim that they are well read and well-equipped with data and figures provided by the media the fact is that many of them are much more ignorant and politically illiterate.

Over the years the media, especially the private television channels, have played a very significant role in misinforming and confusing the masses with their half-baked analyses based on half-truths.

Voters of Patna Saheb are the classic example of mental chaos and absurdity. They are not even aware as to what are their problems and what should they expect from the elected representatives.

The irony is that till 10 months back they were bombarded with the information provided by a set of leaders and journalists that chief minister Nitish Kumar has brought about a revolutionary change in Bihar and he is a prime ministerial material. Now the same lot are busy stating that he is the worst administrator who has spoiled everything in the state and that the growth rate has suddenly crashed.
They were the ones who were giving credit to the Nitish government for half a dozen or so rail-overbridges (ROBs), which helped reduce congestion. Now the same opinion-makers are yelling at the corner meetings during the campaign that the ROBs can not be built alone by the state government without the initiative of the Railways and that Lalu Prasad of the infamous ‘jungle raj’ had also played a key role in their construction as he was the Railway Minister between 2004 and 2009.

The same lot are now saying that Nitish Kumar has done absolutely nothing in Bihar, but all these were the central government projects––in fact some of them even started by the Vajpayee government. And if his government has done something the BJP deserves the credit because it was in power for seven and a half years.

Such heated debates and discussions are going on in drawing rooms, at various tea-stalls, nooks and corners, among students in coaching institutes (as students hardly go to teacher-less colleges), in offices where there is no work etc.

Most of these discussions are highly contradictory and uninspiring. The voters are expecting the MPs to play the role of mukhiyas or even MLAs. A woman worker of a prominent political party who campaigned in the lanes and by-lanes of Patna with a very important candidate was shocked to find that the people are putting up the demand of sewarages and drinking water from an MP. They are perhaps not aware as to what is the State Subject, what is Central Subject and what a state government should do and what the Centre and what is in the Concurrent List. “It is shocking that the level of the people are so low,” she commented while talking to me.

If one wants to measure the havoc the media has wreaked in the last few years one can come over to Patna and join any drawing room discussion of any so-called educated middle class.

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