You can hear the clatter of looms from a distance. And as you make your way through a narrow lane that cuts through concrete structures, there are no noticeable signs of affluence. But Patwa Toli is no ordinary Bihar neighbourhood. While the din of looms is a sign of good business, the children here have been weaving a dream, too, every year: cracking the entrance exams for top engineering colleges, including IITs.
Prem Narayan Patwa, who heads this weaving community of 1,400 households, says they have sent 180 students to IITs; 30 families from here now live in the US. “One family has seven IITians. If you count all our boys and girls in engineering colleges, the number will be 800,’’ he says. Today, the chatter at the looms and street corners is all about the elections. Residents say they have traditionally supported the BJP but this time, they are not quite sure. “The government has never done anything for us. This community has got everything through hard work. But we have been BJP supporters for long. We started supporting the BJP because of Ishwar Choudhary,’’ says Patwa, who heads Vastra Udyog Bunkar Seva Samiti, an association of weavers. He is referring to the well-known BJP MP from Gaya, who was murdered in 1991. “There are 48 booths of Wazirgunj constituency in Patwa Toli and they used to be called ‘BJP booths’.
No one from any other party would even come here,” he adds. Patwa says there are two major reasons for a debate this time. “Our BJP legislator Virendra Singh has never come here. On the other hand, the Nitish Kumar government decided to move Bunkars (the weaver community) from OBC to EBC (extremely backward),’’ he says. “I have been involved with the BJP for a long time. I am not saying people won’t vote for the party, but there are serious questions this time.” Patwa says they had written to BJP president Amit Shah with a request for “a good candidate, who is ready to soil his shoes, walk on these narrow lanes and understand our problems”. But in its first list, the BJP gave the Wazirganj ticket to Virendra Singh again. “The government has done nothing for us. We are taken for granted because we are BJP supporters. We don’t want any doles. In fact, 35-40 villages nearby are dependent on us for employment. There are 1,600 units in the neighbourhood and 80 tonnes yarn is woven into cloth every day,” adds Patwa.
Read More: Indian Express