YEH HAI INDIA
PIC OF THE DAY
Gift your parents good health
R Swaminathan in Gorakhpur
While political parties in Gorakhpur have fielded candidates based on complex caste calculations, voters are quite sick of broken promises and are more interested in bread-and-butter issues.
Gorakhpur also gives the lie to the claim that there is no schism in the BJP on the Ram temple issue.
After collating data on the constituency, the various parties have come to the conclusion that Vaishyas (close to 70,000) and Kayasthas (over 45,000) will be the two decisive communities in Gorakhpur.
Hence, even the traditionally Dalit-oriented Bahajun Samaj Party has fielded a Kayastha Ashok Kumar Srivastava, who has promised massive sales tax cuts to the traders.
Asked how he planned to implement his promise, he said, "I will agitate in the front of the state assembly till the cuts are carried out."
Upping the ante is Samajwadi Party candidate Pramod Singh Tekriwal, a Vaishya who is also president of the Gorakhpur Traders Association. He has promised an export processing zone.
Tekriwal is also banking on the 40,000 Muslim voters.
BJP candidate Minister for Rural Development Shiv Pratap Shukla goes one step further and vows to establish a Gorakhpur industrial development authority.
Shukla's main worry is Hindu Mahasabha candidate Radha Mohan Aggarwal, who is being openly supported by Gorakhpur's BJP MP Aditya Nath.
As mahant (caretaker) of the powerful and rich Gorakhnath temple, Aditya Nath has the resources to take on the famed organisational prowess of the BJP.
Shukla, however, refused to give a direct answer on the effect of the Hindu Mahasabha candidate on his prospects.
Meanwhile, the electorate has a lot of complaints against the politicians.
"The roads here are so pathetic that I have had to change the tyres in my bike six times in the last three years," Amarnath, a student enrolled in a computer course, complained.
Gorakhpur resident Sunil Kumar Tripathi pointed out that flooding of low-lying areas, especially during the monsoons, has been a major problem for the last 20 years despite regular promises to solve the problem.
Allegation of corruption in the construction of bunds (small dams) on the Rapti and the Govind rivers to prevent flooding in low-lying areas have further compounded the disarray in the BJP camp.
"Last year, the bunds collapsed leading to massive floods in the Madhavnagar area forcing hundreds of people to migrate to upper areas. Almost Rs 10 million was withdrawn from the Purvanchal development fund to construct the bunds, which later collapsed. Shukla has pocketed a large part of the money," Tekriwal said.
But Shukla refuted the allegation blaming the flooding on water released by dams in Nepal, where the rivers originate.
Shukla said he had spoken to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the issue and that the latter had assured him of taking up the issue with Nepal.
Another constituency of interest in the Gorakhpur area is the Pipraich assembly segment, where a notorious character Jitendra Kumar Jaiswal alias Pappu Bhaiya is contesting as an independent with support from the BJP.
He has a flourishing liquor business in Gorakhpur and uses strong-arm tactics to persuade voters, residents said.
Samajwadi Party candidate Kedar Nath Singh also accused him of intimidating opponents into withdrawing their nominations.
However, Pappu Bhaiya denied the allegations. "These are the fantasies of my political opponents, who want to discredit me. They know that they cannot win fairly," he said.
And he has his supporters too.
"Though he has a notorious reputation, he has done a lot for the constituency. Maybe he siphons off money, maybe he kills his political opponents, but he also does work for the constituency. Why should I not vote for him?" Shiv Shankar, a dhaba owner, asks.
"I would rather vote for a corrupt politician who does some work for the constituency than vote for one who does nothing," echoed one of Shankar's customers.