Panchayat Elections

Panchayat Elections

The Panchayat elections which followed soon after the May Day celebrations were a great learning. We have no common view but we know of saathis who after facing electoral defeats swore they would not do any election campaigns with the sangathan, given the way we flowed against the stream. As you know the Sagathan supported two mukhiya candidates in their election campaigns, who brought out election manifestos and stood by them, fighting their elections within Rs.5000 and not giving any enticements for votes. We share with you some of our khatta meetha experiences.

The poll in Sharanpur Panchayat was the next morning, it was late at night and I had gone to bed in Krishna Kumar ji’s kaccha house, when I heard mad laughter from outside. Shivnarayan and Krishna Kumar ji had just come back from a dalit tola, which was Krishna kumar ji’s stronghold. He said in his jovial voice “arre sharab ki thaili baant rahe hain, agar koi darwaaza nahin kholta hai to thaili ko andar phenk dete hain”. (They are distributing liquor, if the house owner does not open his gate they just throw

Election Meeting in Chittoriya

the pouch inside). Much later after the defeat, we were all sitting discussing a lot of things, elections being one of them, when Vimlal ji, a landless Dalit saathi from Sharanpur said “humari bakari bhi uski zameen par charti hai” (our goats also graze on his lands). These little stories tell the election tale of the state, the poor many a times have no real vote, it is tied to their livelihood, if the local big wig gets low votes from a dalit tola, we can only guess where our dalit saathis will take their goats for grazing and if liquor does not flow on the katl ki raat, when will it.

Elections are fought on lies I remember this one little point ashish kept making at the election meetings “look at each candidates’ pamphlets, it always says 500 pamphlets were printed but we all know more, much more was printed, we are not lying, we stand here asking for truth to be voted to power”. Probably Krishna Kumar ji and Deepnarayan ji were the only two exceptions whose pamphlets said “prati: 2000” (copies: 2000).

Election Rally

The elections in Katihar (GP Chittoriya, Block Mansahi) were a true exposure to vote politics with violence thrown in for a realistic election picture. We were on our third election rally, this was huge over 500 workers, disciplined in double line, with women at the head of slogan shouting “brush chaap jhaare jhaar!” “humara neta kaisa ho deepnarayan ji jaisa ho” “ladenge! Jeetenge”. We knew we were winning, but those around us were not happy, Deepnarayan Paswan, a dalit saathi, had stood for the post of mukhiya, on an unreserved seat and this did not go well with those in power “kal tak jo humare joote chatate the” (those who used to lick our feet) was one way of referring to our saathis. But, Deepanarayan ji and his team stood strong, stood tall. There were phone threats and offers to sit, but we were not perturbed we were going to win, not only by fighting clean elections but actually getting votes. This rally stunned the onlookers, and then we ran into trouble, we were stopped by the police and Deepnarayan ji booked for violating the model code of conduct. We tried to explain about the mistake, we had asked the election in charge in Araria (ADM, Araria) about the need for permission and he had said “no need” and so we had not asked for permission, it was just a mistake.

That night things became even more ugly, around 1 am, on voting day, one of our saathis was picked up from her house in Chittoriya Panchayat by a local MLA whose nephew was also a candidate, the vidhayak’s gang was looking for “your well wishers from Araria”. That night we knew fear, while one of us from Araria was present when this kidnapping happened and was hidden by saathis there, a couple of us went into corn fields fearing that we would get our local hosts into trouble. We had called enough people in the last eight hours to know that no adivasi-dalit in a far off rural area, can hope to survive if they challenge big-wigs.

Krishna Kumar Ji, Mukhiya Candidate from Sharanpur

The election experiences changed fundamentally the way, at least I looked at politics, the deceit, the lack of trust, the double play and the sheer violence and helplessness of ordinary saathis like Deepnarayan ji and Mary. Mary a young widow had been one of the many upset at the FIR against Deepnarayan ji, she had said “woh sooar ka meat batane aayenge, hum sab meat plastic ki thaili mein le lenge aur vote mein la kar dikhaayenge” (They will distribute pig meat tonight, we will not eat it, we will collect it in plastic packets and get it on election day for everyone to see). For this aadivasi saathi things changed that night after our mazddor meth was kidnapped, no packets came the next morning, fear played its role, Mary came and spoke to me, a soft voice I never knew belonged to her “hum nahin kar paaye” (We could not do it {get the meat}). In another tola Saraswati, Jiten and others refused to let in the vidhayak’s car, they said “if we violate the code because we make a mistake, we won’t let you make the mistake of campaigning at this forbidden time”. Courage and fear both played a role, we experienced both.

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