A city of contrasts, Bodhgaya
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Last Updated: Tuesday, November 09, 2010, 15:07
Bodhgaya: Bodhgaya is a city of contrasts. As the city holds Assembly polls, the contrasts come to fore all the more with people voicing their aspirations and concerns openly.

While on one hand, tourists flock Bodhgaya town giving it a cosmopolitan look, the villages remain largely quagmired in backwardness even as large part of rural Bodhgaya have come under naxal influence.

Tourism is the bread and butter of residents here in absence of any major industry. With the boom in tourism after improvement in law and order, the burgeoning hotel industry in Bodhgaya town has offered a window of opportunity to the village youths to self-finance their studies.

Chintu Kumar of Sakhwara village works as a waiter in Hotel Buddha International. But he has not left his studies and is enrolled in a regular course of BA. He is not the lone youth who is bitten by this part-time job bug.

Most of the youths have learnt the art on job without any professional training.

"There are a lot of students from nearby villages who double up as hotel staff while they also continue with their studies. There are also some girls, who are doing it. Girls are mostly working at reception or similar public interface job," says Pintu, a resident of Tika bigha village, who works as a Head Cook in the same hotel.

There are over 50 medium and small hotels in Bodhgaya and each of them employs between 10 to 20 people as their staff, Kishori Kumar of Mocharim village said.

But the Assembly segment has another side to it. Rural parts of the constituency do not appear even distinctly related to Bodhgaya town.

A large chunk of the township, where Lord Buddha got enlightenment and devotees come from far off Europe and Asia to seek peace and solace is now highly sensitive from naxal point of view.

A whopping 149 of 286 polling booths of the constituency fall in highly sensitive category.

Recently carried delimitation exercise has only sharpened this divide with areas of Fatehpur and Tankuppa block now becoming part of Bodhgaya constituency. This area, with forests and hills around it, is home to Maoists.

As one enters the interiors, the signs of international status of Bodhgaya city are nowhere to be seen.

The mythological Falgu River, also known as Niranjana, acts as great divider of identities.

Even in the Bodhgaya town, nestled amid dazzling Buddhist stupas and Budh Viharas, the Mahadalits have their own set of problems. "Seeing our houses, people think we are rich. But there is no job. Men mostly work as labourers at construction site. And whatever little they earn, they squander in liquor.

It’s difficult to make both ends meet for women who look after the families," says Usha Devi in Ransingh Premdasa Budhgaya Gama founded by former Srilankan President.

One hundred houses were constructed for the Mahadalits of the nearby villages almost two decades back. The plaque at the site describes the colony as "awakened village consisting of 100 houses". But no sign of awakening is visible.

Villagers get almost round the clock power but there is no actual empowerment. The condition of Mushar, one of the Mahadalit communities, is pathetic and begging has become a part of their life.

There are government schools in the area but it is actually the private schools run by various Indian and international NGOs that are imparting education.

"Children do not go to government schools. They read in Sanstha schools. Lot of foreign funded schools run here," says Wakeel Choudhury.

"Most of those who enrol in government schools attend classes in private schools, where teaching quality is better.

But for certificate, the government institutions are required," says another youth.

This is the fourth election in a little more than five years for Bodhgaya residents with the last being the Assembly by-election in 2009 after sitting BJP MLA Hari Manjhi resigned from the seat after becoming an MP in last Lok Sabha elections.

Sitting MLA Kumar Sarvajeet from Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party is locked into a triangular contest in this reserved constituency with BJP's Shyamdeo Paswan and Congress’s Balik Ram.

LJP's alliance with Lalu Prasad's RJD could come to his aid in this constituency where Yadavs also have a sizeable population. BJP candidate banks on the state government's development agenda.

Except the Congress candidate, who is from Ravidas community, all others belong to Paswan caste. Votes of Yadavs, Muslims and Manjhis (Mushars) and smaller caste groups will play a key role in the election as the Scheduled Caste voters appear divided.

Sarvajeet is son of former Gaya MP Rajesh Kumar, who was murdered during Assembly elections in 2005. Sarvajeet won the Bodhgaya seat in a by-election in 2009 after the seat fell vacant when BJP MLA from Bodhgaya Hari Manjhi resigned from the seat after becoming an MP.

Balik Ram is a veteran, who had won the seat in 1980 as a CPI candidate and has good rapport with voters in this once Left bastion.

BJP has replaced Vijay Manjhi, who had lost out to Kumar Sarvajeet in the last election.

"We earlier used to vote for Vijay Manjhi. Now the BJP has fielded a Paswan candidate. Hence we have to think of the option," says Shankar Manjhi in Mastipur village.

Bodhgya which had been a cradle of Marxism after independence also saw lotus bloom in the region with BJP winning the seat in last election wresting the Assembly seat from two time winner RJD.


First Published: Tuesday, November 09, 2010, 15:07

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