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UP: 1.5 lakh voters will BOYCOTT polls this time

Last updated on: January 27, 2012 15:15 IST

UP: 1.5 lakh voters will BOYCOTT polls this time

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Pankaj Choudhary in New Delhi

In the name of development, Chief Minister Mayawati can only boast of statues of herself or Dalit icons across Uttar Pradesh, but the common man in the state who is yet to savour the pleasure of having basic civic amenities, will most naturally think for whom he or she should vote for, or may even opt for a total Bahujan Samaj Party poll boycott.

Campaigning in the five poll-bound states has reached fever pitch. The hurling of shoes, acerbic comments, attacks and counter-attacks, have become the hallmark of electoral battle in the cow-belt of Uttar Pradesh.

At the same time, as D-Day approaches, voters are evaluating the state government's progress on the condition of bijli, sadak and paani (electricity, roads and potable water) in their constituencies.

And going by the mood of voters in eastern UP, trends are not all encouraging for the Bahujan Samaj Party, and it could well become a victim of anti-incumbency.

Take the example of Gorakhpur District, which shares its borders with Bihar. It seems to have been affected considerably by the pace of development in that neighbouring state.

This aspiration has touched such a peak that about 1.5 lakh voters of 52 villages in the Campierganj Assembly constituency have decided to boycott the seven-phased polls from February 8 to March 3.

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Image: Workers erect a scaffolding to cover statues of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
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'Candidates only betray us afterwards'

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Chunnu Singh, a resident of Manjhgawan village, said that leaders have always deceived the people, and added that there is no point in casting a vote, as nothing ever changes for the better.

"We will not vote this time because whichever candidate comes, only betrays us afterwards. This has been going on for over 50 years," said Singh.

Similar sentiments are echoed in the southwestern Bundelkhand region. Patna village, which falls under the Tindwari Assembly constituency in Banda District, has decided not to vote.

A disgruntled resident, Sarvesh Pandey, said candidates only seek votes, and once they are elected, they are not seen for the next five years.

"We vote every time during elections, but our basic problems refuse to go away. Nothing is done. After a lot of pain, we are compelled to decide that we will not vote this time around, whoever the candidate is. They make tall promises while campaigning, but in the subsequent five years, they vanish. We don't even see their faces. It won't be any exaggeration to say that we don't know how our elected representative looks like!" said Pandey.

Likewise, the villagers of Balpur in Saharanpur District too will not exercise their franchise.

Pramod, a resident, said the village has seen no development in the past decade, and adds that the incumbent legislator has failed to meet his obligations to his electorate.

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Image: A tea stall vendor uses a banner of Mayawati to cover his roadside shop in Lucknow
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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Leaders, KEEP OUT of our villages: Voters

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"In our village, about 17 years ago, that is way back in 1995, a road was constructed. Since then, there has been no notable development work executed in our neighbourhood. The present legislator has mastered the art of rendering false promises, but does nothing," said Pramod.

"We have been compelled to suffer bad drains, pot-holed roads, and no electricity here. The electricity poles were erected and these have no utility since there is no power supply. So, while reviewing such a grim situation, the whole village has decided to keep away from polling," he added.

Consequently, local residents have asked leaders of various political parties not to enter their village to ask for votes.

Recently, villagers of the Patara block of Kanpur District declared that they would boycott the elections, as they felt isolated by the powers-that-be.

"There is a power line 300 metres from our village, but till today, our homes are yet to be electrified. Although, there have been umpteen announcements of infrastructure schemes related to the construction of roads and power distribution, our village has been the same for the past six decades," said Vidhyabhagat Kuril, one of the demonstrating villagers.

This kind of mass awareness and aversion to Mayawati''s gimmicks is quite visible in the Dalit hamlets also, where till date; they are craving for basic Bijli, Sadak and Paani (BSP).

Indeed, the public discontentment against her and the ruling BSP over the eagerly awaited BSP across UP has assumed elephantine proportions. And interestingly, the elephant happens to be the symbol of Mayawati's BSP!

The majority of Dalit voters may not be swayed by her caste-based orations. So much so, they raise the poser: Dalit ki beti ne dalit ke liye kya kiya?

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Image: A Bahujan Samaj Party worker walks past statues of elephants, the BSP's electoral symbol, at the party headquarters in Lucknow
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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No more 'vote and daughter will go to same caste'

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Rambadan, a Dalit in Banda district, says, "We Dalits won't keep on voting her to bring her in power and she cuts a gigantic cake and put on diamond necklace."

Why this sudden change of perception? Why the issue of development has overshadowed the caste unity?

Dr. Triyankar Upadhyaya, Chairman of UNESCO 'Research on Peace and Conflict Management' at the prestigious Banaras Hindu University, opines that this change of wind is coming from Bihar where the decades-old proverb of ''Vote Aur Beti, Jaat Mein'' (vote and daughter will go to same caste) has lost its significance ever since people realized the essence of march of progress under the Nitish Kumar regime.

Whether Nitish Kumar campaigns in Uttar Pradesh or not, his ideology is very much present in the electoral spectrum of Uttar Pradesh.

And, that is why the BJP is trying to bank on the credit gained from the all-round development in Bihar under the National Democratic Alliance.

The BJP has reckoned that voters in Uttar Pradesh would expect the BJP, if elected to power, to steer the state along the Bihar model of development.

However, the Janata Dal-United is irked with the BJP leadership for claiming credit for integrated development in Bihar. The JD-U leaders believe the BJP should cite the example of Narendra Modi in Gujarat and not Bihar under Nitish Kumar insofar as development is concerned.

Amid this tussle for claiming credit for holistic development, the BJP knows that it cannot antagonise Muslim voters by brandishing Modi as the brain behind development in Gujarat.

Leave alone the political wrangling, it is certain that development seems to have caught the imagination of voters of UP. That is why, at most places, we hear people talking of development and venting their ire against leaders through boycott threats.

We therefore have to wait and watch for the outcome of the polls to see whether this craving for Bijli, Sadak and Paani (BSP) translates into a mass vote of grudge against the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Will the BSP return to power or become a victim of incumbency factor is anyone's guess. One thing is certain -- that public dissatisfaction with the political class has attained an elephantine quotient that needs to be addressed, if not neutralised, at least for Mayawati''s sake.


Image: Dalit women work with cow dung on the outskirts of Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
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