Makhdumpur (Jahanabad): It is just a road which divides the residents of Makhdumpur assembly constituency of Maoist effected Jahanabad district. On one side voters openly favour the BJP-led NDA while on the other side, the support is largely for the grand alliance.
NH-83, which comes from Patna via Masaurhi, goes directly to Gaya through Makhdumpur and runs almost parallel to the railway line. The road that divides came about because of historical settlements.
One side is dominated by Bhumihar, Manjhi and Kushwaha community while the other has a majority of Yadava Koiry, Paswan and Ravidas castes among others.
In Bihar, Makhdumpur is still a study in the caste divide that has been evident for long, despite voting on developmental lines in many places.
NDA has fielded Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) president and former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi (69), who is also fighting from Imamganj assembly constituency of the adjoining Gaya district.
The grand alliance has fielded RJD's Subedar Das (50) of Raidas community. A total of 13 candidates are in the fray including six Paswan's from different political parties and some independents.
Makhdumpur will vote on October 16 in the second phase of the election.
In Indrapuri village, a group of people were playing cards outside a temple wearing white boat-shaped cap of HAM on their heads.
"All the villages of this side are with NDA. In fact we are supporting Modi ji and will vote for Manjhi," Sachidanand Sharma told IANS.
"Manjhi has done not much work in the area, but when he was the chief minister at least the roads were constructed and power supply conditions improved," he added.
Others in the group also vow their support to Modi.
"We are still facing problems in irrigation. The Surhanda dam is being constructed since last three years but still not functional. The construction work was initiated by JD-U government when Vijay Chowdhry was the irrigation minister. We would have voted Nitish Kumar but the scenario changed when he joined hands with Lalu Prasad,Â” says Mahesh Sharma.
"Abri bhar Manjhi ko vote dekar jitana hai (this time we will vote for Manjhi and make him the winner)," he added.
On the other side of the road, Yadavs overwhelmingly support Lalu Yadav.
Subhash Yadav of Lalabigaha, a Yadav dominated village, said: "whatever development has been done is only visible on the other side of the road. We are being neglected. So we will support Laluji."
His contention is that "It was Lalu ji who gave voice to us. Subedar Das is a poor boy who is working hard in the area since long. Even Paswans of the area will vote for him," he added.
Yet, in some villages such as Makarpur, Prabhatnagar and Veera people are more circumspect.
"We have not yet decided whom to support in this election. In the last assembly polls, the Koiry's and Kushwaha's supported Nitish Kumar. This time there will be division of votes. Let's see what happens," Deepak Mahato, who sells vegetables in Makhdumpur Bazar said.
Manjhi has his own supporters too.
"Manjhiji has assured us Indira Awaas, toilets and community centre. Hope when he wins we will be benefited," Digan Manjhi, Ranjan Manjhi and Pintu Manjhi said in almost overlapping voices at Khalkochak village of 984 Manjhi voters.
Muslims in the area are also in sizeable numbers.
"If Muslims and Yadav's vote together in favour of Das, and if he succeeds to get even 25 percent of the Koiry votes, Manjhi will be in trouble," said a local shopkeeper Ramprasad Sah at Makhdumpur Chowk.
"Even Paswan voters are divided as there are six Paswan candidates in the fray including BSP's Mrityunjay Paswan," he added.
Manjhi won the last assembly election from Makhdumpur on JD-U ticket by defeating RJD's Dharmraj Paswan with a margin of 5085 votes. Not really a decisive number.
(Brajendra Nath Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)