Uttar Pradesh Poll Diary: Phase 4

Furious exchanges of truth and post-truth, the usual tall promises, rally crowd one-upmanship—snippets from the hectic campaign before the fourth phase of voting in Uttar Pradesh assembly polls

Photo courtesy: Twitter.com/yadavakhilesh
Photo courtesy: Twitter.com/yadavakhilesh

Biswajeet Banerjee and Vishwa Deepak

Kunda ka Gunda

Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya has represented Kunda as an independent candidate five times. He is again in the fray. Kalyan Singh once called him ‘Kunda ka Goonda’ while Mayawati, when she was Chief Minister, had got his Bainthi palace raided. Banned AK 47 guns had then been dug out from a pond inside. Not surprisingly, not many dare to cross his path. Not even political parties. While in most constituencies in the state at least 10 candidates are in the fray, in Kunda it is friendlier. The SP-Congress alliance has not fielded any candidate. BSP and BJP have both fielded relatively weak candidates while two of the four independent candidates have withdrawn. Tellingly his election symbol is a ‘hack saw’!

The battle for perception

Stung by the PM’s ‘Kabristan-shamshaan’ and ‘Diwali-Ramzan’ remarks, team Akhilesh dug out government orders and twitter posts to prove the PM wrong. While the state government had released ₹100 crore for cremation grounds, the team dug out power consumption figures to question the PM’s diatribe. Last year Eid was on July 6 and supply was 13,500 MW whereas on Deepawali, which was from October 28 to November 1 (Dhanteras to Bhaidooj) supply was 24X7 for all five days and availability of electricity was over 15,400 MW.

‘Mujhe Sadhna Yadav kaho na’

“Why are you addressing me as Sadhna Gupta. Don’t you know I am Yadav now. Address me as Sadhna Yadav,” admonished the second wife of Mulayam Singh Yadav when a newsman at Saifai addressed her as Sadhna Gupta ji. “Presswalas always call Akhilesh as my sautela beta (step son),” she remonstrated, “But I do not treat him as sautela. In fact, both Akhilesh and Prateek are like my two eyes,” she went on to explain.

JD(U) sacks state president

Last week, on February 11 to be precise, Janata Dal (United) state president Suresh Bhaiya Niranjan announced support for the SP-Congress alliance. But barely a week later on Monday this week he was sacked. JD(U)’s national general secretary KC Tyagi was quoted as saying, “This is gross indiscipline which cannot be tolerated in the party.” JD(U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had earlier said that he would not support anyone in UP polls. A sulking Niranjan now says that action against him was harsh and unwarranted as he merely wanted to strengthen secular forces in UP like the party did in Bihar.

Photo courtesy: Twitter.com/narendramodi
Photo courtesy: Twitter.com/narendramodi
Women attend a poll rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Orai

Whose rally was bigger?

At a rally in Orai, PM Narendra Modi repeated his promise to waive farmer’s loans in case BJP was voted to power in Uttar Pradesh. But some bystanders seemed unconvinced. “He has been in the power for around 3 years and loan waiver comes under central government, the burden will be borne by national banks…so why has he not already announced waiver?” said a farmer who had come from Jhansi to listen to the PM speak. But the real punch came from a stringer who works for a regional news channel. In a post rally analysis at a roadside dhaba he claimed, “Thousands of the people were brought in buses and trolleys from bordering areas of Madhya Pradesh. Local leaders were asked to make the PM’s rally a great success. There are 19 assembly seats in Bundelkhand region but the PM addressed only one rally, so BJP put all its strength and machinery in place.” A Dalit activist piped in to claim that “Behenji’s rally was bigger than the PM’s”.

Bundelkhand’s drought gives way to caste in poll talk at election time

Bundelkhand is frequently in the news for hunger deaths and farmer suicides brought on by drought. Vikas (development), is thus the issue on the surface at campaign rallies, but in tea stalls, railway stations and bus stops, most of the election gup-shup is centered on the caste of candidates, with all parties distributing tickets looking at cast equations to win seats. “Neither politicians nor media are talking up the pressing issue of drought. Everyone knows it’s because politicians and media are hand in glove,” alleged a young journalist. A disgruntled BJP supporter claimed that the “party has distributed more than 95% tickets in the region on caste lines”.

All not well in the SP-Congress alliance in Jhansi

In Jhansi, local journalists claim Congress may face sabotage by none other than workers of alliance partner Samajwadi Party. They say that the district unit of Samajwadi Party is not campaigning in favour of the alliance candidate, who is from Congress. The educated, soft spoken candidate is said to be party Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s choice, but locally is considered a misfit in rustic politics. A powerful Rajya Sabha member of SP is supposedly behind the sabotage.

Politicians not allowed to campaign in parts of Jhansi

“I will not vote for any party. We are facing many problems including water crisis but no one is willing to listen us,” said a young man from Jhansi city’s Pani ki Dharmshala locality. To mark their protest, residents of three localities including Pani ki Dharmshala have decided to boycott the election and instead opt for NOTA. According to local journalists, residents have not even allowed any leader to enter their localities and campaign there. “Though all parties are same, I feel a strong dislike for BJP,” added the young man. Why? Union cabinet minister for water resources Uma Bharti is the MP from Jhansi, Ravi Sharma is the incumbent MLA and mayor of the city Kiran Raju Bookseller is also from BJP; they can resolve the problems in a few minutes but they don’t want to do it, he alleged.

Does Niranjan Jyoti’s promise of a separate Bundelkhand hold any promise?

Controversial BJP leader Niranjan Jyoti has promised a separate Bundelkhand at an election rally in Banda, surprising the residents of Orai. “PM Modi did not mention the issue in his rally yesterday…why is she making the claim and on behalf of whom?,” asked a law student. Niranjan Jyoti claimed at the rally that Bundelkhand will not develop unless a separate state is created. Divided between two states Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Bundelkhand comprises 13 districts—7 from UP and 6 from MP. It is considered one of the worst regions for farming in India.

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