28th October 2020, would go down in pages of history as a date when Bihar exhibited to the world that people of Bihar are least concerned about Coronavirus infecting them. The staggering voting percentage since morning confirmed the resolve of the people at large. They got out, stood in queues and voted. Now, whether that vote is for the “Sushashan", that the state has apparently witnessed over the past 15 years in NDA rule or for change to be lead by a young leader is yet to be deciphered. But the huge queues, the fat voting percentage and the enthusiasm in people to vote a new government are highly infectious.
What may have been an alarming situation at the start of the election process in the midst of corona, has bettered out in Bihar. Its an anomaly to see people with masks in political rallies, roads, gatherings, or with their leaders. Leaders are sporting masks, but it's way below the chin - it's like an appendage, hanging by the neck, just so that the Election Commission might task them for not wearing one. A few leaders did fall victim to the deadly disease, but then, such misadventures do happen.
Clearly, coronavirus pandemic has not dented the spirit of elections in Bihar. But why so? Are people of Bihar more robust, have a better immune system, are fitter than the rest of Indians - or is it, that they have devised some physiological or metaphysical protective shield to ward off Coronavirus. Both postulates are way off the mark. Neither Biharis are well-endowed health-wise, nor are they better equipped to handle a crisis as huge as corona. Simply put, Bihar believes, it is already at the bottom of the ladder in all matters, so why bother. Be it economic parameters, health coverage, governmental aide, societal pressure - nothing seems to deter a Bihari from striving for the basic — livelihood. The most common refrain heard on the streets is - if we survive hunger, we can survive anything, what can corona do to us.
Corona is not a bigger issue than hunger. And it is this common refrain that is egging the people of Bihar to flock to the polling stations to cast their votes. Maybe, out of the blue, comes a government that will work for the betterment of the hapless masses. Maybe the next government target unemployment, pathetic law and order situation, economic deprivation, malnutrition, hunger and pathetic health services. It's the hope for a better future that is driving the common man to the polling stations.
And this is what brings us to moot question. 30 years have gone by when the state has been governed by primarily two formulations - NDA and loosely knit Mahagathbandhan. But the disgustingly pathetic situation of common man remains a steadfast reminder. When the people of state, migrate to other states within the country or fly off to Gulf countries in search of livelihood, they realise their loss. The desire for development back home burns the heart of every Bihari. When migrant labourers come back from Gulf countries with their heavy bags, they know, they have brought with them - hope.
They come back with stories of affirmative actions of respective governments. They talk of big shopping malls, effective policing, general law & order and yes, they speak to good living standards. Even when the domestic migrant labourer come back to his home, he speaks of an effective government, roads where cars drive at speeds of 100 kmph, public transport like metro or suburban railway, glamor & glitz.
Added this that the increased internet connectivity is exposing people to better living standards across the country. But all that appears on the mobile screen or is conversed by the evening meal, evaporates into thin air when reality hits in Bihar.
It is this desire for change that is driving people of Bihar to the polling stations. With poverty and squalor, spears all around, people today desire, peace, harmony, development and a basic standard of living.
I hope this drive propels the voter of Bihar to select a government that can be accountable to the people at large. Empty promises and corrupt political superstructure has deprived Bihar of its sense of pride and belonging. Ask any migrant - what will they give up to be back home, if good living standards are in the offering. I can bet my two pennies - more than 95 per cent would be even willing to wind up their work in various corners of India and simply settle down at their home state. It's not that lure of better future is less attractive, but for far too long the average Bihari migrant has suffered way too long in self-indignation, the loneliness of being a migrant. The pride of living on one's own land is still too strong and hopefully, the future of Bihar would ensure this long-cherished dream of an average Bihari.
That's the reason, Corona or no Corona, Bihar would have queued up to mark its own destiny, its own future.
(Writer of the article, Ajay Kumar, is Consulting Editor, India TV)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The opinions do not reflect the views of India TV)