Bihar¿s Panchayat Elections: The Media Misses The Real Story

IN Media Practice | 31/08/2002
Bihar¿s Panchayat Elections: The Media Misses The Real Story

Bihar¿s Panchayat Elections: The Media Misses The Real Story

 

By
Ajay Kumar
Bihartimes.com


 

 


Enthusiastic campaigning marked the elections

 

The media highlighted only violence or fear of violence in the panchayat elections in Bihar and ignored the basic issues of the election such as strong democratisation at village level, high level of participation of women, and caste being not the main consideration for the choice of the candidates.

 

The recently concluded Panchayat elections in Bihar were held after 23 years. It was played up as a trigger for large scale violence or fear of violence, both by the print media and TV news channels like Zee and Star. Zee TV had done a special programme on criminals preparing for the coming elections. "The Inside Story" depicted the elections in Bihar as purely a militia war for power. They reported this huge democratic exercise as if a gang of criminals along with latest sophisticated weapons were the only deciding factors in the elections ofpanchayats --"a gang lord democracy" based on gang war. In fact the entire media has tried more to make this election a sensational news story based on dramatised interactions with criminals. The stories were saleable because they matched with the stereotypical image of Bihar.


The bright side of this democratic event was largely ignored. The media with its urban bias
hardly cared to understand the wide sweeping changes taking place in the power structure of villages. Despite hindrances, a large number of dalits not only exercised their franchise but some of them had contested the elections and even managed to muster support of local upper caste people. Candidates with strong personal credibility got support from every
section and some of them got elected unopposed. In Sakraurha panchayat of Jehanbad district, Jeetan Manjhi, a dalit got votes of Bhumihars (Upper caste) from Gandhar and Aona village. Another candidate Arun Bind also got votes of the upper castes in Samarkand Village of Jehanabad. . Many dalits also contested from general seats.


A large number of women candidates are contesting these elections, and for the first time, a large number of them will be at the helm. Despite having woman Chief Minister, the number of women in politics in Bihar are few.

 

Altogether 44,815 seats of different posts in panchayat are reserved for females. This too is for the first time. Most of the urban-based mediamen hardly took an interest in understanding the power shift and rural dynamics of the highly complex and vibrant rural Bihar. The killing field of Bihar, that is Central Bihar, did not see any major incidence of violence. How this happened in such a polarised society, where for many, identity of a person is limited to the caste from which he

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