At last count, late Ron Bahadur Thapa is survived by 12 sons and 10 daughters and over 150 grandchildren. Altogether, there are 300 families with more than 2,500 members and they all live in Nepali Gaon of Puloguri in Sonitpur district of Assam.
That’s a lot of votes. And every vote counts. With more than 1,200 votes for one single-family, the Thapa’s undoubtedly mattered much in the Rangapara constituency.
“Our father left us in 1997 at the age of 116 years. An acclaimed farmer Ron Bahadur came to Assam from Nepal in 1906 and created today’s Nepali Gaon clearing jungles and rocky areas. He was elected as the Gaon Bura (Headman) of the village in 1935. We have more than 120 bighas of land which is the prime source of income for us” says Charki Thapa, Village Headman of Nepali Gaon.
Ron Bahadur has 12 sons and 10 girls from his five wives. With all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Bahadur’s family now has more than 2,500 members all living in the same village at a newly-created Nepali Gaon part two nearby. The 62-year-old headman Charki Thappa has three wives and 12children himself. His family accounts for 17 votes.
“I don’t remember all the names of my nephews and nieces and their children. However, our family adds more than 1,200 votes deciding the fate of Rangapara constituency,” says Charki.
Though the Thappa family doesn’t stay under one roof and the farmland is divided among the 12 brothers, they make it a point to gather at weekends and discuss family matters. Most of the young members of the family are engaged in the family farming occupation, many have educated themselves with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in commerce and arts. The lone government employee of the family, Rahul’s job as a school teacher, got the official stamp through the recently declared scheme by the government of Assam. For the rest, private jobs in Guwahati, Delhi and Bangalore have been the preferred employment destinations.
“Though we are a family, the decision on franchise is totally individual and I as a headman appointed by the government have to be neutral. However, the gravelled roads of the Public Works Department have turned into concrete ones in the last five years. But water supply schemes, proper houses, toilets and old pension schemes are still eluding us. The ring well supplying drinking water too is dilapidated. Jobs and better amenities are what the new generation wants,” says Charki.
Rangapara goes to polls on March 27 in the first phase of the elections. In the 2016 Assembly election, Rangapara constituency had 1,36,999 voters. Pallab Lochan Das of BJP won the seat in 2016, with 51,597 votes.
The Congress candidate Bhimananda Tanti was the runner-up with 28,606 votes. In 2019, after the election of Pallab Lochan Das as the MP from Tezpur, Rangapara has been without a representative. In 2021, Kamal Krishna Tanti is the BJP candidate. 47 constituencies out of 126 go to polls in the first phase of Assam Assembly elections.
“As Ron Bahadur family’s votes do matter in deciding the fate of Rangapara, we expect the representative to look after our basic needs. I understand that ours is a large family but at that time we did not have much access to birth control means and education and Indira Gandhi’s government did not do much on this. However, our next generation is aware and conscious,” says Chakri.
The world’s largest existing family with 39 wives, 94 children, 14 daughters-in-law and 33 grandchildren, 180 family members is from Mozoram. The family is now living in Baktawng village Mizoram and is headed by Ziona Chana and lives in a four-storied house on a hill top. All under one roof, the family needs 50 kg of rice and over 75 kg of meat every day to feed every one.