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Modi wave sweeps through Bundelkhand

April 29, 2014 10:14 IST

In Bundelkhand, which straddles Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, support for Narendra Modi seems to cut across the caste barriers; even so, a vigorous and 4-cornered tussle is on the cards. Sahil Makkar reports

"Bhairon tum majboori ho, Modi tum jaroori ho (Bhairon, you are a compulsion because Modi is a must)." This slogan gives a chance entry to gauge the undercurrent silently dividing the Bundelkhand voters.

Bhairon Prasad Mishra is the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate for the Banda parliamentary seat.

Complete Coverage: Lok Sabha Election 2014

The locals seem unhappy with him but are willing to vote in the name of the party's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.

"We are voting for neither BJP nor Mishra; we are voting for Modi. We are voting for a change," says Ram Sewak Gautam, a farmer in Atarra block of Banda. He voted for the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2012 Assembly elections and for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Bundelkhand straddles Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It has four Lok Sabha seats -- Banda, Jhansi, Hamirpur and Jalaun -- in UP.

The entire region is prone to drought and is counted among the country's most backward areas.

Voting has always been along caste lines.

Other backward classes are half the electorate; Dalits are another 30 per cent.

In the 2009 general elections, the SP took two of the four seats; the other two were divided between BSP and Congress. In the 2012 Assembly elections, BSP got seven seats and SP six; Congress and BJP won four and three, respectively.

The BJP won only in town seats, where Brahmins are more in number.

Yet, through the region, visits to these areas indicate a groundswell for the BJP. People across caste lines, and especially from the OBC category, are pledging support. Brahmins, traders and some Yadav voters, too, seem to be returning to supporting it.

"Despite internal fighting and candidates' unpopularity, we are in a close fight with the BSP on all the four seats. It is all because of a Modi wave," says a local leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, progenitor of the BJP.

"If we were given good candidates, who knows; we would have won all the four seats."

He has been mobilising support for the BJP candidates in remoter areas.

The party seniors say they are confident of winning at least the Jalaun and Jhansi seats.

Both seats have a significant presence of Brahmins. Also, Jhansi candidate Uma Bharti, ex-Union cabinet minister and chief minister of MP, belongs to the OBCs.

The party also seems to be gaining from the re-entry of another OBC leader and a former chief minister of some reputation, Kalyan Singh.

The OBC card appears to be working.

For instance Shaitan Singh Pal and Rakesh Kumar, both 21, and first-time voters, from the OBC and Dalit class, respectively, had come to Jhansi, spending Rs 20 each, to get a look at Bharti, famous for her fiery speeches and unorthodox style.

"Our parents are staunch BSP supporters but we think Modi is the best," says Kumar, an Ahirwar.

There are an estimated 90,000-100,000 new voters in each of the four constituencies.

The division among voters gets more palpable in Gahabra village of Banda district, some 200 km from Jhansi.

This augurs well for the BJP but splits in the OBC and Dalit votes have sent alarm bells ringing in the BSP camp.

Mayawati, the Dalit icon, and her followers were expected to gain the most from the rising unpopularity of the SP government in Lucknow and anti-incumbency against the Congress at the Centre.

As they continue to work at keeping their flock together, the BSP leaders hold the media responsible for giving 'too much attention' to Modi.

The final outcome, however, also hinges on Muslim voters, present in sizable numbers.

Complete Coverage: Lok Sabha Election 2014

Sahil Makkar