Kanpur: Jaiswal, Joshi in tough fight

Lack of development key issue in constituency

Looking for a fourth straight term, Union Minister for Coal Sriprakash Jaiswal finds himself in a tough contest in Kanpur, once known as the “Manchester of the East” for its cotton mills.

A clearly visible “Modi Wave”, especially among the younger generation, rising prices, and lack of development are some of the major issues that have made life difficult for Jaiswal in this Lok Sabha constituency.

Though the infamous Coalgate scam is not an issue in the polls, intellectuals do refer to it to attack Jaiswal and stress the need for “change”.

“Jaiswal has failed to improve the civic facilities in the city. In fact, the condition here has gone from bad to worse over the past few years,” says businessman Jugal Kishore Arora. He added that only Narendra Modi can deliver the goods.

Potholed roads have become synonymous with the town. During rains, the town resembles a “virtual hell”, said many residents.

The patch connecting the Rama Devi Crossing to Ganga Bridge has been under construction for almost a decade, and no one knows when will it be ready. It has become a cause of perpetual traffic jams on one of the busiest roads in the town, said residents.

Gyanendra Dwivedi of the Vikas Nagar locality referred to the closed mills, saying their closure has seriously impacted the residents here, and a large number of people have been rendered unemployed. “Now the youths of the city have to go to the cities like Bangalore and Mumbai for jobs,” he said.

Jitendra Kumar, an auto driver by profession, is so fed up with things here that he has decided to exercise the none-of-the-above (NOTA) option this time. “I am certain none of the candidates will do anything for the town. There is no use electing any of them,” Kumar, a dalit, told Deccan Herald.

Despite being labelled as an industrial town, Kanpur has been suffering from acute shortage of power. “Frequent power cuts have made life very difficult here,” said a retired government employee Trilok Nath Chaubey.

The BJP has fielded senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi from the seat, and Jaiswal has been trying to turn the contest into “local vs outsider”. Joshi, sitting MP from Varanasi, had to shift here after the saffron party decided to field Modi from the holy city.

Though Joshi is a BJP veteran, his arrival has not gone down well with some local leaders, who had been nurturing ambitions to contest from here. Local BJP MLA Satish Mahana, who was in line for candidacy, is said to be upset, and is not actively participating in campaigning.

Jaiswal is banking heavily on the large Muslim population in the town to sail through, and the community appears to be solidly backing him. “We will go with Jaiswal,” said Nafees Ahmed, a mechanic.

The presence of two Muslim candidates—Salim Ahmed of the BSP and Mehmood Hussain of the AAP—could however play spoilsport. On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party’s Surendra Mohan, a leader of the traders here, could make a dent in the BJP vote-bank.
The constituency goes to polls on April 30.

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