YEH HAI INDIA
PIC OF THE DAY
Gift your parents good health
R Swaminathan in Mirzapur
Immensely congested roads with an assorted collection of motorised and non-motorised vehicles jostling for space is the first thing that strikes you about Mirzapur City, and it is one of the themes in electioneering for the Mirzapur parliamentary by-election and assembly elections.
Nevertheless, this comes as a bit of a surprise, considering that the murder of Phoolan Devi, who represented this area in Parliament, is still in the news.
Except for her sister Munni Devi, who is contesting on a Rashtriya Krantikari Dal ticket, a party founded by former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, no one seems to be talking about the murder.
The by-election, necessitated by Phoolan Devi's untimely death, is high profile and the issues are also varied.
The candidates for the bypoll focus on national-level issues, while those vying for an assembly seat are more interested in caste dynamics and hand pumps.
BJP bypoll candidate Ram Chandra Mohan starts off his meetings by asking the electorate to strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the fight against terrorism. Congress candidate Rajeshpati Tripathi speaks about the "good old times" of his grandfather, former chief minister Kamalapati Tripathi.
Tripathi, when asked about his chances, told rediff.com: "Chances? After touring the constituency with me you are asking my chances? My dear friend, it is clear that I am going to be the winner. The other parties are going to be wiped out."
Congress Working Committee member Arjun Singh, who was campaigning for Tripathi, said, "The verdict of the people will show their anger against the misrule of the Bharatiya Janata Party."
The BJP candidate, however, disagreed. He said the Congress had lost the race by fielding an outsider (Tripathi hails from Varanasi), and added that his main challenge was from the Samajwadi Party's Ram Pati Bhind.
Raj Kumar Maurya, district president of the Samajwadi Party, said Mulayam Singh Yadav had shown "maturity" in fielding Bhind.
The Samajwadi Party will retain the 20,000 odd Muslim votes and 30,000 plus Yadav votes and Bhind will also attract supporters of Phoolan Devi, who was from the backward Bhind community, he said.
But Yogesh Chandra Mishra, a former member of the legislative assembly from Aurai, said Tripathi would bag the 70,000-odd Brahmin votes and 75,000-plus Thakur votes.
"The SP is living in a fool's paradise," he said. "Just by bagging these two communities, we are already on the way to winning the seat."
Munni Devi, the dark horse in the race, said people haven't forgotten the conspiracy of the Congress, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party in scuttling her demand for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into her sister's murder.
She said, "Behenji [Phoolan Devi] did so much for the dehat (villages). Poor people never forget good deeds. Ask Rajeshpatiji or any candidate to move out of Mirzapur City and see for the themselves the support that I get in the villages."
Interestingly, Umed Singh, husband of Phoolan Devi, had also filed his nomination papers as an independent candidate after the Samajwadi Party had denied him a ticket. But his nomination papers were cancelled.
City Magistrate Arun Kumar Srivastava, who is the returning officer for the election, told rediff.com, "Umed Singh did not file all the required documents, and we also found some discrepancy in the age that he mentioned in various documents."
The Bahujan Samaj Party also fancies its chances in Mirzapur. It has fielded Narendra Singh Kushwahah.
BSP state general secretary Parasnath Maurya said: "The new slogan of the BSP -- 'Manavwad' -- unlike the earlier 'Manuwad', has galvanised all castes."
Not only will the BSP get the votes of the dalits, it will make inroads into other communities, he contended.
In the assembly election, one of the main talking points is Uday Bhan Singh, who is contesting from the Aurai constituency.
You cannot meet Uday Bhan. He is in Gyanpur jail for allegedly murdering Samajwadi Party rival Amit Shukla.
Dr Rakesh, who claimed to be his election agent, said the cases foisted on Uday Bhan were false and the result of BJP rival Rangnath Misra putting pressure on the police.
Misra was the home minister in the Rajnath Singh government.
The BJP candidate, however, said the BSP, realising that it would not be able to topple the BJP government by fair means, was resorting to muscle power.
He claimed that he had done enough for the people and they knew whom to vote for.
Photographs: R Swaminathan