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The Rediff Special/ Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Barthana, Etawah
Power play on Mulayam's home turf
April 04, 2007
Only handful of Indian cities and towns can boast of continuous of power supply, Barthana town in Mulayam Singh Yadav's home turf of Etawah is one of them.
Located at 300 kilometres away from the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow, Barthana has become the focal point in the first phase of Uttar Pradesh election as the chief minister is seeking a mandate from this constituency.
"Mumbai can have power cuts but not Barthana," says Santosh Yadav, a Samajwadi Party office bearer.
He points to the fan on the ceiling in the Samajwadi Party office in Barthana, "You see that fan. It will never stop. Netaji (Mulayam) has changed the face of Etawah in the last three and half years. There used to be only four hours of electricity in Etawah but today there is 24-hour power supply."
Barthana is 40 kilometers from Mulayam's home town Saifai. He is contesting for the first time from Barthana and also Gannaur from where he is the sitting MLA in Badayun district.
National leaders from all the parties like Rahul Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, Mayawati, Lalu Prasad Yadav and even V P Singh have come to this town to challenge Mulayam's supremacy.
The assembly elections of 2007 is turning out to be the most important in Mulayam's political career as most of his friends have deserted him and he is left alone with his party general secretary, Amar Singh to try and win the state.
Today the situation is worse because even his own party leaders like actor turned politician Raj Babbar and his friend in politics for 35 years, Beni Prasad Verma have turned against him.
Raj Babbar has floated the Jan Morcha with V P Singh and Beni Prasad Verma, the former Union communication minister has formed his own party -- the Samajwadi Kranti Dal to take on Mulayam.
Not only this the Central Bureau of Investigation has filed a case against him for assets disproportionate to his income and Mayawati has already announced that she will throw Mulayam in jail once she comes back to power.
Asked why all his friends have turned against him, Mulayam said in a recent interview: "I have not turned against them. They have turned against me. I have not deserted them but they have deserted me."
As you enter Barthana, after crossing a railway line -- Mahira Phatak -- your eyes meet with a dozen trucks constructing a tar road.
The work is going on in full swing and even the sweltering heat does not bother the workers who are working relentlessly.
Huge posters of Mulayam greet you with Amar Singh smiling next to him on top of rooftops or on the vans and cars parked on the roads.
"Kayam Rahe Uttar Pradesh, Kayam Rahe Mulayam," say the posters.
The town boasts of 24-hours electricity but there are no cyber cafes or any big industry in the town. The only source of income on which people depend on is agriculture, rice mills or government jobs.
The town is dominated by the Yadav community and every other person you stop will have a Yadav surname. No wonder besides Mulayam, the other three candidates from different parties also have Yadav surnames -- Ajay Yadav of the Congress, Shiv Prasad Yadav of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Prem Singh Yadav of the BJP.
Asked what are the issues that bothers people of Barthana, Shivendra Yadav says, "There are no jobs here for youngsters and there is a tremendous law and order problem."
Shivendra, 33, has passed his Bachelor in Arts in 1996 but still has not found a regular job. He is dependant on ancestral agricultural land for his livelihood.
He further explains, "There have been many cases of kidnappings and nobody goes to report it to the police. People are living in a state of fear."
Says Ajay Yadav, the Congress candidate, "The opposition parties find difficult to put their banners here because entire state machinery is operating for him. He is running a goonda raj in UP."
So whom will Shivendra vote for? "Netaji (Mulayam)," he says astonishingly without batting an eyelid.
But when asked about the fact that he has no job and that he lives in a state of fear, he says, "He is the best choice among the lot. He has given us 24-hours electricity and also improved roads to a certain extent. I also get Rs 500 for being unemployed from the state government. Moreover, there are chances that he may develop this constituency more after he wins and becomes chief minister."
To woo the young voters, Mulayam in June 2006 announced a scheme for unemployed youths which ensures that they get Rs 500 per month till they get a job.
In fact in his new manifesto he has announced that the unemployed will get Rs 1,500 instead of Rs 500 per month.
Asked what would be his expectation from Mulayam, he says without a pause, "I need a permanent job. It is the final solution for all problems in life."
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