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Mainpuri: A ride from the Etawah railway station to the Yadav heartland of Mainpuri, located 55 km away, lays bare a tapestry of development and clan loyalty based on mutual benefit. Well-maintained roads with schools and colleges dotting them in the pocket borough of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav is something that one can seldom find in Uttar Pradesh.
Come Lok Sabha polls, and the consolidation of Yadav votes behind the Samajwadi Party finds expression in SP flags flying high atop houses in residential colonies, shops, among other buildings—flags of other parties are conspicuously missing. “Why vote for someone else, when we know that the candidate will win and then not do our bidding? He will simply ignore us,” says Sanju Yadav, an SP worker. In an area where agriculture holds sway, Mainpuri gets uninterrupted power and water to promote growth, he said. The district gets the largesse, when the SP is in power, while Mayawati’s regime deprives it of electricity for hours each day. “We do not get fertilisers even after paying during BSP rule,” he says.
The relationship is more symbiotic than symbolic. Riding on the SP’s back, the Yadavs, comprising 30 per cent of the electorate in Mainpuri, have gained ascendancy through better job opportunities in the state government, governmental contracts for its small-time local leaders and uninterrupted power and water supply, says a member of the Yadav clan, not willing to be identified. For the Yadavs of Mainpuri, cases of disproportionate assets lodged against Mulayam are not an issue. To them, it is a question of better opportunities for their clan and, above all, self-respect.
But it’s not just the Yadavs who have voted SP. The Rajputs, who are into trade here, also find it good economics to vote for the party. Says Rajesh Bhadauria, a businessman, “We vote for Mulayam Singh because we know him well. He will work for the constituency.” It is unwise to waste one’s vote by voting for someone people are not sure of, he added.
However, supporting the Samajwadi Party, at times, brings into the open ideological conflict within families. Utkarsh Bhadauria, son of Rajesh Bhadauria, is a staunch BJP supporter—the NaMo mantra has charmed this 21-one-year-old. His allegations find common refrain within the Rajputs in town. “The SP cleverly gerrymandered the district to exclude Rajput villages, clubbing them with a nearby constituency,” says another BJP supporter, not willing to come on record. With this singular move, the SP leaders made Mainpuri a Yadav citadel, he says.
SP’s critics, Utkarsh included, recount a litany of woes they have with the party—an often-heard saga of dynastic hold, corruption and lack of development until a few months back—charges that staunch SP loyalists deny. Utkarsh also gives his own version of the prevailing peace and lack of ethnic or religious tension in town. “Within an 8-10 km radius of Mainpuri are Rajput-dominated villages. So the Yadavs and Dalits will not find shelter or reinforcements in these areas,” he says.
Even though the BJP may be on a weak footing, it is putting up a brave face and the mood in the local BJP camp office is upbeat. Its Lok Sabha candidate Shatrughan Singh Chauhan claims to have the support of all sections of society, barring the Yadavs and Dalits. To add razzmatazz to a seemingly one-sided contest, a dozen Modi raths are campaigning for the BJP, each having large cut-outs of Narendra Modi and former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. A few of them are also blaring out songs in praise of Modi. His photos are bigger in the posters and hoardings in the dank BJP camp office as well, Vajpayee a fading presence, and other leaders, including L.K. Advani, on the sidelines. Campaigning has been low-key, with each party keen to get villagers on their side. Chauhan’s supporters are hopeful that a last-minute Modi surge will see him through. “Shatrughan hai talwar aur Modi hai dhar,” says Jaichandra Bhadauria, a BJP supporter.
The SP charge is spearheaded by its leader Naresh Uttam, an MLC in the UP Vidhan Parishad. He is campaigning relentlessly for the SP supremo, while also micro-managing affairs at the party office in Mainpuri. While the SP leaders go out into the villages from morning until dusk in small motorcades—campaigning door-to-door and organising nukkad meetings, each lasting a half-hour and attended by about 40 people—BJP leaders also go out each day in vehicles early morning, returning in the afternoon. Their door-to-door campaign seeks votes more in the name of Modi than the local candidate.
The BSP, which managed to get the second-highest number of votes in the previous Lok Sabha elections, has BSP leader Swamy Prasad Maurya’s daughter Sanghmitra in the fray. A doctor of medicine, she alleges there was no development in Mainpuri until recently. While the town gets uninterrupted power, the adjoining villages do not, she alleges. “My plans are to bring professional courses to town. This will prevent the youth from migrating to bigger cities for greener pasture,” she said. A cancer hospital is also on her priority list. The BSP campaigning has been discreet with Sanghmitra preferring to meet small groups of people. Interestingly, while the BSP harps about the future, SP leaders make it a point to remind people about their past achievements.
“Mulayam is from Etawah, while I am a local candidate because I come from Mainpuri,” he says. He accuses the senior Yadav of promoting dynastic rule, deteriorating law and order and lacking vision for developing the region. Chauhan wants to lay railway tracks from Shikohabad to Kanpur —connecting Mainpuri to Lucknow and Delhi through superfast trains. His vision for growth includes giving a fillip to cottage industries.
The infighting within the BJP city unit is something the SP leaders relish to narrate. Until recently, the tussle for Mainpuri Lok Sabha ticket was between Chauhan and Ashok Yadav, whom Chauhan accuses of being in league with the SP supremo to get Mulayam a virtual walkover at the hustings—a charge SP leaders make light of.
The infighting could be resolved only after senior RSS functionaries intervened and asked a few BJP leaders to resign from their position. Having sued for peace with the RSS, which has its office at a walking distance from the BJP camp office, these BJP leaders are now sulking, says a BJP source.
Sanghmitra does not mince words describing Chauhan as a Mulayam acolyte now in the BJP. Chauhan was in the SP until recently, and two months back he got a senior SP leader to inaugurate his school, she alleges. Chauhan was quick to deny all this, while claiming that Sanghmitra is contesting polls with an eye on a Rajya Sabha berth after taking on the SP supremo.
The campaign is not without its ugly moments of fracas among supporters of various candidates. An incident of alleged thrashing of a BJP worker by an SP diehard had the BJP workers agitated leading to an FIR being filed.