Muzaffarpur (Bihar), May 5 (IANS) Akshya Verma, 28, an Oxford educated banker who quit his high-profile job in London, opted out of his sharp-cut business suits to wear kurta and jeans as he contests from Bihar's Muzaffarpur parliamentary constituency, a far cry from the world he had inhabited.
Verma, an idealist, is not banking on the caste factor, a rarity in Bihar polls. He is rather experimenting with his new mantra - "change for better days and a chance to serve the people", particularly the poorest of the poor. He floated the Sarvjan Kalyan Lokantrik Party and is contesting as its candidate.
Verma received his education at Oxford University in Britain and Columbia University in the US and was working as the vice president in the USB Investment Bank in London. He left his high-paying job and has been working for the last two years in the dusty and deprived villages of Muzaffarpur to empower and improve the living conditions of poor fishermen, farmers and women.
"My thrust is to convince people to have faith in me to give me chance to serve them for better days. You have tested many, now give me a chance to serve you...," Verma told IANS.
He graduated from Delhi's St.Stephen's College and is the son of a senior IAS officer, Amitabh Verma, who is a known face in this rural, flood-prone constituency with a sizeable population of upper castes as well as extreme backward castes of fishermen locally known as Mallah.
"He has been trying for some change. He has been visiting us before polls, unlike others. We have high hopes from him," Hari Kewat, a Mallah, said.
He has been working among fishermen, youth and women through his NGO Agratam India that helped the rural poor to construct toilets, provided training in modern fish farming techniques and formed women self help groups.
Manohar Mallah of Kothia Dhakili village said Verma is the best qualified candidate and committed for development.
"Despite his high-flying background, he touches the feet of elders and talks with respect during visits to villages," he said.
Verma said he helped 1,400 fishermen with bank loans of Rs 3.75 crore, and got 5,800 fishermen insured in the last two years.
He also claimed to have submitted additional loan applications for 25,000 fishermen in North Bihar Regional Rural Bank. He has motivated two investors of Delhi to invest in fish seed production.
His friends who study abroad and his sister Arushi, who quit her job with an NGO, are all helping him in his campaign.
Muzaffarpur will go to polls May 7 and will be acid test for him.
He is fighting against BJP candidate Ajay Nishad, son of sitting MP and former union minister Jai Narain Nishad. there is also JD-U candidate Bijendra Choudhary, who also belongs to extreme backward caste like Ajay Nishad.