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Rediff.com  » News » Voices from UP polls Day 1: 'Maya gave us security'

Voices from UP polls Day 1: 'Maya gave us security'

Last updated on: February 8, 2012 11:40 IST

'People will come out to vote for Congress once the rain stops'

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Sheela Bhatt and Sharat Pradhan in Barabanki

Sheela Bhatt and Sharat Pradhan report from Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh, which is voting today in the first phase of elections.

Ten degrees of cold and rains have spoiled the mood of Pannalal Punia, Congress leader and chairman of National Commission for Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

He was entrusted the job 'Mission 85' by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi -- to win 85 reserved constituencies in Uttar Pradesh.

When he came to vote in a small polling station in Awari area of Barabanki, there were hardly any voters around. He told rediff.com, "Congress expects to win and once the rains stops people would surely come out to vote."

Punia was Chief Minister Mayawati's confidant while serving in government, but after retirement he joined the Congress.

He even gave evidence against Mayawati in the Taj corridor scam. Today, he is struggling to ensure that the Dalit votes return to the Congress. The chilly weather may help Mayawati because her loyal voters are likely to come, but the middle class voters may not turn out in big numbers.

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Image: Congress leader Pannalal Punia speaks to the media as he arrives to cast his vote along with his family at a polling booth in Barabanki on Wednesday
Photographs: Sandip Pal

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'Rahul is good, but his party is too weak'

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When Punia said the Congress will win 40 seats out of 55 seats where voting is taking place in the first phase on Wednesday, Ashok Kumar Rastogi, a voter living in the area, laughed out. He is a retired officer of state power corporation.

"Whatever you say, Mayawati gave us security. We want this government to retain power," Rastogi said.

Rastogi belongs to a backward class but doesn't vote on the basis of caste. When rediff.com asked him why it was so, he said, "Only Mayawati has the capacity to rule. If Rahul Gandhi had spoken against the 2G scam, if he had expressed respect for Anna Hazare, I would have voted for his party. Rahul is good, but his party is too weak!"

Then he taunted Punia, "Mayawati's voters are such that even if stones are raining they would come out of their homes and vote for her!"


Image: Ashok Kumar Rastogi speaks to the media as he arrives to cast his vote in Barabanki on Wednesday morning
Photographs: Sandip Pal

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'Mayawati must go because she is Dalit-centric'

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Mohammad Qazi, a retired government officer, was upset to see that TV channel reporters were not talking to him.

In Uttar Pradesh, TV reporters get more attention than even local leaders. And Qazi managed to attract their attention somehow.

He is 73 years old but his enthusiasm to vote was no less than the young voters'. He said he belongs to neighbouring Sitapur.

He said when he shifted to Barabanki, the local Bharatiya Janata Party office didn't even send him a voter's slip because he was a Muslim.

He felt so hurt that he voted for the Samajwadi Party the last two terms. He says because of Emergency he didn't vote for the Congress after 1977.  "I hate dictatorship," he said emphatically.

He voted the BJP to oust Congress in 1977. Later, when the BJP "ignored" him he shifted loyalties to the SP.

He said he belongs to a zamindar family of UP. "Mayawati must go because she is Dalit-centric and has not added power-generating capacity," he said. "Bijlee nahin toh vikas nahin (No development without electricity)."

Some six to seven times he repeated in a 20-minute conversation with rediff.com how he led people to erect power plant in three years instead of five years.

He says, "I didn't take one rupee as bribe. We were very firm and honest." 


Image: Mohammad Qazi speaks to the media outside a polling station in Barabanki
Photographs: Sandip Pal

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'We don't have any leader who is not corrupt'

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Abhishek Nag is a first time voter. He said, "I came early to vote because I wanted to ensure that I am able to wrap it up quickly."

"I am taking training for teaching. Barabanki is a backward area. There is no job, no development here. Things have not moved here since generations. It is so backward that even my friends who have paid Rs 5 lakh to get degree of B Tech are jobless these days. There are no opportunities here. We don't have any leader who is not corrupt," he added.

Abhishek said, "I really, really wish that we get jobs. My friends who studied in private colleges here are finding life difficult because private educational institutions have no credibility in cities and outside Uttar Pradesh. Education is only helping politicians who normally run these institutions, and not students."


Image: Abhishek Nag, a first time voter, outside a polling station in Barabanki on Wednesday morning
Photographs: Sandip Pal

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