Quiet flows along river Mandakini in Chitrakoot but the residents in this pilgrim centre of Uttar Pradesh's Banda district are vocal.
Concerns regarding unemployment and price rise ring loud ahead of voting in the fourth phase of Assembly elections on February 23 in this region, which borders Madhya Pradesh.
On Tuesday, addressing a rally in Chitrakoot, Akhilesh Yadav trains guns on both BJP Chief Ministers ‘Baba Yogi Adityanth” and “Mama Shivraj Chouhan" and rained promises like opening a hospital for free treatment and doubling the number of ambulances started in his previous regime.
Reminding people how the state government left them “anath” (orphaned) during the pandemic and how migrant labour from the region traveled back home from cities carrying their children on head, Yadav also promised to start ‘bharti” (employment) in ‘fauz’ and the police and informed people that the BJP government is not bothered to fill “70 lakh vacancies” in government jobs.
Though he talked about how he did the ‘parikrama” (circumambulation) of the sacred places in Chitrakoot and had a ‘darshan’ of deities at Lakshman pahadi, he mainly focused on civic issues and jobs while targeting the government.
Babita Chaurasia, a housewife near Ramghat, says “The job scenario is bad. Prices are skyrocketing. Mustard oil comes at Rs 250 a kilo. What to eat? Mandir, math gaiyan (temple, monastery and cows). How does the common man benefit from all this? There are two unemployed boys in my family. What will be done with 5 kilograms of wheat? If even one person gets a job, it changes the fortunes of the entire family. All this will have its impact.” She asks: What have they done in five years?
In Kevtar village, which falls in Satna district of MP on the other side of the river, Moolchand Nishad presses the panic button.
“The water table in Mandakini river is going down. Every year it is going down by at least four inches. This way the river will lose existence and so will the place where pilgrims come due to the teerthas on Mandakini. Where will we go then? We have been rowing boat for generations and have no other expertise. I am doing this for 15 years but the business has gone down. All the more in the last three years due to Corona. Also, there is no cleaning of the river,” he says.
He, however, has all the praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Modi ji achcha neta hain. Awaas de diya hai. Nishad ka votes sirf BJP me jaata hai,(Modi is a good politician. Has provided home. Nishads' votes go to the BJP only)" he says
The river, a tributary of Yamuna, originates from the Vindhyachal hills and is drying up fast. It is believed Lord Ram had spent his exile in forest and Goswami Tulsidas had written the Ramcharitamanas on the bank of this river. There are issues of illegal encroachment on the riverside and illegal mining in the hills affecting its natural flow. Some activists had also approached National Green Tribunal over it.
BJP has once again fielded its sitting MLA Chandrika Prasad Upadhyay, who had defeated Samajwadi Party candidate Veer Singh in a triangular contest. The BSP was third. Veer Singh had won the seat in 2012 defeating BSP’s candidate. This time SP has given ticket Anil Kumar Pradhan while BSP’s candidate is Pushpendra Singh. Congress has fielded a woman candidate, Nirmala.
Vinayak Shivhare from the Jaiswal community has a shop on Ramghaat which is in Uttar Pradesh but his house is at Ramdhaam in Madhya Pradesh, on the other side of the river.
“It’s a bordering area. Many people from Madhya Pradesh run shops and business this side. As far as development of religious site is concerned, it is better in UP than MP,” he says.
Jaiswal confides that though he likes “Modi because only he is fit to be PM” he “votes for Congress due to personal relationship. There are not many, who vouch for Congress.
At the famous jalebi shop of Bhairon, a resident from adjoining locality Madhya Pradesh says “Yogi ji ne chitrakoot me kaam kya hai. UP area me safai hai (Yogi has worked in Chitrakoot. There is cleanliness in UP area)"
Suresh Kumar Chaurasia claims that the votes of Chaurasia samaj (betel leaves grower community) will go to Samajwadi Party because “Badlao chaahiye(need change)” and the issues are “berozgaari and Mahngai (unemployment and price rise)”.
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