In UP, voters want deliverance from their rotten state

In UP, voters want deliverance from their rotten state

The election drums are beating in Uttar Pradesh as political parties work overtime to seduce the voters. Travelling through this populous state one is struck, as always, by the wisdom of the voters who see through one and all, and yet know they have to cast their vote as democratic and discerning citizens of India.

They are also aware of the total disinterestedness of the political class in the development of UP, where towns have become dumps of garbage, and sewage.
Development is the issue in most parts of Western Uttar Pradesh as the voters, of any caste or religion, are busy sizing up the political parties and the candidates in the weeks preceding voting day. Be it the Jat or the Muslim or the Dalit or the Brahmin the voters are clear that the only way forward is development without corruption, and so they are looking at the parties to see the one that will stay the course and be available when required.

 In discussions at tea stalls and roadside shops and mohallas the voters shares their concerns. While they admit that the political parties would like to divide them, they perhaps do not realise how well their views synchronise with the others across the belt.
“Look at us, there is not a single industry here... The candidate is not concerned, the political powers do not bother, and now they are coming back for our vote, making the same promises which they are not going to keep,” they say. So we look around in Meerut, Moradabad, Bareilly, Bulandhshahr, all big towns and cities of Uttar Pradesh.

 And see what the voters are talking about. The roads are all, without exception, are littered with potholes. The pavements are full of garbage not removed for days as the municipality does not exist. Electricity remains a luxury, with the power available in the best case for six hours a day. The sewage is overflowing. There are neither traffic lights nor policemen. The hospitals are filthy and overflowing with patients. Education is more private than primary; not a single industry is coming up in most of the belt. Employment avenues are non existent, with the schemes announced over and over again remaining only on paper.

Even journalists visiting UP look for the candidates, follow VIP campaigns, and scream praises of leaders like Rahul Gandhi without seeing the squalor and the dirt and the poverty the people of UP are living in. Bulandhshar, for instance, has not changed over the last 15 years that I have been seeing, remaining untouched by prime minister Manmohan Singh’s economic reforms.

Not an iota of difference
In fact it has become more of a garbage dump than earlier. Badaun has not seen a single industry come up in the area for decades now with glitzy boys like Saleem Sherwani contesting, winning and leaving without making an iota of difference to the constituency.
The political parties have sensed the frustration among the electorate and the issues being raised in the campaigns are to do with employment, livelihood and a better future. Secular parties are no longer using the bogey of communalism to bring together the Muslim vote, or the issue of caste to isolate any particular community.

The scramble in this very tightly contested election is for all possible votes, so Congress scion Rahul Gandhi insists that development can be possible only under his supervision and a Congress government; Mulayam Singh is busy announcing various waivers and schemes for the youth and the farmers; Mayawati is listing out the achievements of her years in power; with perhaps only the BJP still a little confused about the agenda, as it vacillates between communalism that its leaders admit is not working, and development.
In a significant departure, not often heard in UP in the past, voters are quite happy to denounce or praise a candidate for the work he or she has done or not done regardless of the party. In Badaun for instance the Muslim voters were full of praise for the local BJP candidate who was described as a ‘good man’ and as they put it, “a leader who will rush here on his cycle within minutes if we call him.” Their dislike for the BJP will prevent them from voting for him directly, they say, but they will be quite happy if he wins on his own as he did last time. Similarly in Moradabad Muslims and Hindus join hands to denounce former MP Azharuddin who had won from the Congress but did nothing for the people. ‘He betrayed us,’ was the common consensus with the people exhibiting a strange bonhomie for these parts.

The tension and fear often palpable among the voter before an election is missing this time around, and Dalit and Muslim voters are quite vocal about their preferences. Close to Baghpat where the Dalit voter has always been at the receiving end, it was interesting to find the BSP supporters quite vocal in public. A group of rickshawallas had no qualms in pointing out that the Dalit base of the BSP was intact. Why? Because Mayawatiji has done so much for us, was the pat response. Others who were critical of BSP gathered around and there was a debate with the BSP supporters, who turned out to be Jatavs, not yielding ground. Earlier the Dalits were always reticent about their voting choice in public, preferring to remain quiet while others talked. The Dalit vote has definitely acquired a voice, at least in the towns of UP.

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