Home to three CMs, voters in Gopalganj constituency yearn for progress amidst continuing neglect

home to three cms, voters in gopalganj constituency yearn for progress amidst continuing neglect

Gopalganj, May 06 (ANI): Voter awareness campaign being conducted under SVEEP activities in the wake of Lok Sabha polls, on Monday. (ANI Photo)

Gopalganj: In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Gopalganj, situated in the north-western part of Bihar, shot into the limelight for getting the highest number of votes for ‘None of the above’ (NOTA). As many as 51,660 electorates had opted for NOTA in 2019 LS polls, which makes up for 2.8% of the total polled votes, against 17,841 votes for NOTA in the 2014 elections.

Several people of the constituencies blamed the growing incidence of NOTA in the Lok Sabha elections on the backwardness of the district despite giving three chief ministers—Abdul Gafoor, Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi— besides international cricketer Mukesh Kumar and Bollywood actor Pankaj Tripathi.

“Elections come and go, but nobody really bothers about our problems,” rued Mahesh Yadav, a tea stall owner in Bhorey. He, however, hastened to add that equations might alter this, as there is no wave for any particular party in the constituency and electors are not opening up due to price rise and growing unemployment.

In 2019, JDU leader Alok Kumar Suman won the seat with 5,68,150 votes, defeating his nearest rival of RJD, Surendra Ram, by a margin of 2.82 lakh votes. While the JDU retained its candidate Suman in this election, Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) has fielded Premnath Chanchal alias Chanchal Paswan as the INDIA bloc nominee against him.

“The land of Gopalganj is very fertile, politically and otherwise, but we are condemned to lead a life of backwardness region. For almost a quarter every year, the district is ravaged by floods from the turbulent Gandak, even though the state government spends hundreds of crore to strengthen its embankments. And in case of medical emergency, people have to rush to Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur or Patna for treatment, as oft-repeated promises of building a resource-rich hospital by political leaders remained a far-cry,” said Mohit Mandal, a native of Vijaypur village.

The district also lags far behind in getting the benefit of the high-paced development of the national highways. The Centre had approved the construction of a 55-km stretch of NH-27 (East-West Corridor) in the year 2000 with an estimated cost of ₹200 crore. However, a smooth ride on the road is still not possible, as about 10% of the project is still not finished after 24 years and the escalation of the project cost to ₹2,700 crore. The bridge on river Gandak, connecting Bathna Kutti and Dumariaghat, which forms part of NH27, could also not be completed despite assurances by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials.

Reserved for Scheduled Caste, this Lok Sabha constituency comprises six assembly segments—Baikunthpur, Barauli, Gopalganj, Kuchaikote, Bhorey and Hathua—and has a sizable chunk of Brahmins electors, which makes the electoral battle interesting. Arithmetically, the situation are apparently tilted in favour of the NDA in Gopalganj, which will go to poll in the sixth phase on May 25, as four of the six assembly seats of the constituency have been wrested either by BJP or JDU in the 2020 assembly polls. Only Baikunthpur and Hathua have the RJD MLAs.

Settled on the western bank of the river Gandak, the constituency is naturally endowed and it was once famous for sugarcane production. The sweetness of the Bhojpuri language spreads across both sides. However, the continued closure of sugar mills in the last couple of decades has complicated the miseries of sugarcane growers. “We are not able to go for large-scale commercial production of jaggery for want of policy support from the state government,” said Maheshwar Dubey of Saraiya Pahadi village.

“Gopalganj does not have a medical college and it will be a big issue this time when candidates come to seek our votes. The government and the Opposition both are taking credit for approval to a medical college here, but we want it to be functional. Speeches cannot cure patients. Going to Gopalganj requires a lot of time and money, but when serious patients are referred there, one has no option but to go. Sometimes delay proves fatal,” said Bhola Rai, 65, a labourer.

Ahead of the election, both chief minister Nitish Kumar and his former deputy Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who earlier held the health portfolio, have been engaged in a war of words at their election meetings over approval of the medical college at Thawe, though even the foundation stone has not been laid so far.

“Another problem for Gopalganj is recurring floods and dried-up canals when water is needed for irrigation. No wonder, locals say, migration to places outside Bihar is a necessity to eke out a living, but there are no direct trains to Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Punjab etc despite the fact that RJD chief Lalu Prasad was also rail minister,” said Akshat Kumar, an aspirant for state civil services jobs.

Locals discuss that despite being the native place of Lau Prasad, RJD has not fielded its candidate here. The youth are vocal and demand law college, agriculture college and university in Gopalganj. “There is no proper higher educational facility. The sessions are also very late. The political leaders seek votes on issues that do not bring any change to our lives. So many elections have passed, but for the youth, Gopalganj has nothing to offer. It does not even have a girls’ college, while it should have a full-fledged medical. The session in JP University, Chhapra is very late,” said Satish Kumar, who studies in Patna.

The indifference about the election is striking. Even in the native village of Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi, Phulwaria, many people did not even know the name of the opposition candidate, as they mostly identify with ‘Kamal’ or ‘lantern’, the symbols of the BJP and the RJD. “The election is between the BJP and the RJD, but here Laluji has not fielded his candidate. Some VIP candidates are here. We will see who to vote later on,” said Ganga Devi.

Hiraman, a trader, said that the PM could tilt the balance in favour of sitting MP Alok Suman due to a lack of alternatives. Nirekhan-Choudhary (65) has a small shop near Phulwaria station. “All the corrupt, but one who gets caught faces the music, while the rest claim to be honest. Lalu Prasad is not the only one to have been involved in a scam. All candidates contest election for their own benefit, not for the poor like us,” he said.

Misri Choudhary, 70, of Barauli is in the milk business and he is clear where his vote should go. “Rahul Gandhi has announced to increase old age pension to ₹1200 and waive agriculture loan. If Modi also announces a loan waiver, my entire family will vote for him. Just ₹6000 will not do,” he added.

Jitendra Thakur, 50, of Thawe, said that he has his hard-earned ₹2-lakh stuck in Sahara India. “I am still waiting for my money though I had applied online and spent ₹600 for that. BJP had announced ₹10000 will be paid every month. I have to marry my daughter,” he added.

Assembly constituencies in Gopalganj like—Baikunthpur, Barauli, Gopalganj, Kuchaikote, Bhorey and Hathua

Candidates: Dr Alok Kumar Suman, JD (U)

Premnath Chanchal alias Chanchal Paswan, Vikashsheel Insaan Party

Dinanath Manjhi, AIMIM

Gopalganj winner and runner in 2019

Dr Alok Kumar Suman (JD-U) 5,68,150

Surendra Kumar (RJD) 2,81,716

Nota (None of the above) 51, 660

Total Voters- Over 20.29 lakh

Male-10,27,437

Female—10,01,902

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