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'Mulayam will become prime minister this time'

Nistula Hebbar in Mainpuri | May 05, 2004 23:27 IST

Mainpuri, the constituency where Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is contesting from, hasn't seen too many star campaigners.

Naturally, Raju Yadav, the general secretary of the Samjawadi Party youth wing, is a worried man.

SP ideologue Janeshwar Mishra was refusing to come and campaign here unless he was provided access to a toilet furnished with an English-style commode.

"The only hotel in this district is a no-star one with Indian-style lavatories," said Yadav. Last heard, he was arranging for cars to ferry back Mishra to Agra the same day.

Apparently, the party's big campaigners, like actress Jayaprada and Amar Singh, refused to campaign here for the same reason. A plan to set up luxury tents, furnished with restrooms like those at the Kumbh Mela, was floated.

But when the local press showed too much interest in the project, the idea was dropped.

The only inspection bungalow in the district has been taken over by the four poll observers.

The BJP has circumvented the entire problem by sheer air power. Rajnath Singh and Pramod Mahajan were the only two leaders who addressed campaign meetings here and flew back within an hour. News of the sparse crowds and Mainpuri's moffusil looks were deterrents for others.

The rest of Mainpuri is no different. The rich are very rich and live off the income from cold storages where the two main crops in the area -- potatoes and wheat -- are stored.

One plywood factory supplies a few thousand jobs in the midst of desolation. Crime and politics are the main sources of income. Last week, all the buses going on the Agra-Mainpuri highway at night were looted systematically for three hours without anyone discovering.

Escotel executives say 300 SIM cards are sold every month, so there is an upwardly mobile population in the constituency. But people migrate in large numbers to feed the demand from more industrialised areas.

Contesting against Mulayam Singh Yadav is BJP candidate Balram Singh Yadav, who won the 1999 Lok Sabha polls on an SP ticket. He had left the SP to join the BJP, a fact that is being played up to the hilt by the SP.

Unlike the SP's swanky, airconditioned office, the BJP office looks like a converted cow shed, with a bovine resident listlessly chewing cud in the afternoon sun.

The first time Mulayam Singh Yadav got elected from Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency, he became the defence minister of the country. "Is bar vey pradhan mantri zaroor banenge (He will surely become the Prime Minister this time)," said a resident of Mainpuri.

In these parts, Mulayam Singh Yadav is known as 'Netaji', a nickname coined by his former teacher and colleague, Rajya Sabha MP Uday Pratap Singh. The area has witnessed Mulayam's growth as a student and then as a teacher in 1967 at the Jain Inter College in Karhal.

"I taught him English, and later he taught me politics," says Uday Pratap Singh, a Hindi poet in his own right.

The legends around Mulayam Singh grew in the fertile Mainpuri soil, which is otherwise known as the potato heartland of Uttar Pradesh. "In 1974, Netaji was arrested for leading an agitation against a policeman who molested a harijan woman," says Uday Pratap.

From that point there was no looking back, as Yadav went from a local teacher to become the chief minister of the state, and more importantly, one of the progenitors of today's backward class politics.

A large number of Thakur voters (19 per cent) and Lodhs who are expected to vote for the BJP after Kalyan Singh's return to the party fold.

In this scenario, the four per cent Muslim vote in the constituency becomes crucial. The voting pattern here will also show whether BJP's propaganda love affair with Mulayam has succeeded in alienating the Muslims. Till May 13, Mainpuri lives in hope of better times.

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