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regular-article-logo Sunday, 23 June 2024

Lok Sabha elections: In Uttar Pradesh village, a longing for change in ruling dispensation

'I am receiving support from local RSS members, too, because they are disillusioned with local MP (Ramapati Ram Tripathi of the BJP) and the governments in Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre'

Piyush Srivastava Deoria (UP) Published 20.05.24, 06:02 AM
Akhilesh Pratap Singh (wearing a yellow garland) at a public meeting in Deoria, Uttar Pradesh, on Saturday.

Akhilesh Pratap Singh (wearing a yellow garland) at a public meeting in Deoria, Uttar Pradesh, on Saturday. Picture by Piyush Srivastava.

The middle-aged woman draws close and whispers conspiratorially in this correspondent’s ear.

Abki baar hawa baa harave ke (The talk this time is about defeating them),”
she says.

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Asked what her name is and who is to be defeated, she shrinks back. “Hamra gharwa me raid dalwaiba ka (Do you want to instigate a raid on my home)?”

It’s Saturday evening and The Telegraph is visiting village Kanakpur in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh. The middle-aged woman is sitting with a few other women at a public meeting organised for Akhilesh Pratap Singh, the Congress-INDIA nominee from Deoria.

“Do you get sugar and kerosene oil from the ration shop?” Singh asks from the dais.

“No,” is the chorused reply.

“Think about it. You used to get sugar at 5 to 7 a kg and kerosene at 3 a litre. The Narendra Modi government stopped it and started giving 5kg of food grains free every month,” Singh says.

“They saved several thousand crores by excluding these items from the ration shops and now claim they obliged you by giving free food grains. But now you have to buy sugar and kerosene from the open market at 40 a kg and 30 a litre. We will restore the old system and also give you 10kg food grains free per month.”

Brahmdeo Kushwaha, the panchayat chief, delivers a speech in support of Singh, former MLA from Ru­d­r­apur in Deoria district and a familiar face in TV debates.

“This village was with the BJP till the 2019 elections. But 80 per cent of the people have decided to defeat the BJP this time because they have done nothing for us these 10 years of Narendra Modi’s rule,” Kushwaha says.

Om Prakash Yadav, a zilla panchayat member, tries to pep up the audience.

“You are not going to elect a mere MP but also a cabinet minister. Nothing will be impossible for us if INDIA wins and forms the government. We have to change the system so that the Agniveer scheme (of temporary recruitment to the armed forces) is scrapped,” he says.

Polling officials collect EVMs and other election material from a distribution centre in Lucknow on Sunday.

Polling officials collect EVMs and other election material from a distribution centre in Lucknow on Sunday. PTI picture

“We have 60 people from our villages in the army. At least 100 children from my village used to run in the morning to prepare for selection to the security forces. But they don’t run any more because they are not willing to join to army as Agniveers and become jobless after four years.”

Singh takes this forward. “Modiji is asking for a third term. He is 74 and will turn 75 next year. He was chief minister of Gujarat for 11 years (nearly 13 years) and has been Prime Minister for the last 10 years. Now he is asking you to give him 5 or 10 more years,” he says.

“But he is giving just four years’ employment to your children in the army. We are going to scrap this scheme on the very first day of our government and start recruitment to permanent jobs.”

It’s a speech Singh delivers at each of the 25-odd public meetings he addresses every day.

“I am receiving support from local RSS members, too, because they are disillusioned with local MP (Ramapati Ram Tripathi of the BJP) and the governments in Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre,” Singh tells this newspaper before heading to Barwa Meer Chhapar, a semi-urban area.

There, he tells a meeting of businessmen: “People’s purchasing power has decreased because of the government’s financial mismanagement. People should have money to buy stuff so that cash circulates in the market. The Congress will ensure cash flow and market vibrancy.”

He uses a homely idiom to explain the need for cash to keep moving: “Agar roti na paltal jae ta jal jala (The chapatti burns if not turned over the fire).”

The BJP has dropped Ramapati Ram and fielded Shashank Mani Tripathi from Deoria. He too holds 20 to 25 meetings every day, seeking votes in Modi’s name. But local leaders of his own party are making his position vulnerable.

On Saturday, a BJP leader allegedly barged into Khukhundi police station and attacked the brother of a woman who had come to settle a dispute with her husband.

“Some BJP leaders here take money from people to help them at the police stations,” the alleged victim said.

The BJP’s national leaders don’t talk about local problems when they come to campaign.

“India is moving fast to become a superpower,” defence minister Rajnath Singh informed a rally here on Friday. “The people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir want to merge with India.”

Deoria votes on June 1

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