Bimlesh Rajbhar was intrigued to find a group of blue-clad people entering her village and raising slogans for local BSP candidate Pankaj Kumar, who is contesting from the Mehnagar constituency of Azamgarh. “They are campaigning for Behenji”, her brother-in-law’s wife Rama Devi informed Bimlesh.
Bimlesh knows who Behenji is. “Oh kar hathiyan chinh wa” (her election symbol is elephant), she said with a chuckle.
Bimlesh’s village is called Hasanpur Bharathipur, situated on the border of Azamgarh and Ghazipur district. It comes under the Mehnagar Vidhan Sabha in the Azamgarh district.
Roads to reach the village are unmetalled and not easily motorable. “This is a border village, nobody cares about us. In the rainy season, nobody can enter this village by car,” said Prakash Rajbhar.
The village has Rajbhar, Lonia, Yadav, Kushwaha, Jatav and other caste groups. Many members of the Rajbhar community in Hasanpur Bharathipur are unhappy with OP Rajbhar, the chief of Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP).
Radhe Shyam Rajbhar, a villager said, “He does not represent the entire Rajbhar community. His supporters are in Ghazipur, and there too, not many support him. He is just taking care of his family’s interest because he wanted to bring his son into politics.”
Bimlesh does not know who OP Rajbhar, Anil Rajbhar or any other Rajbhar leaders are. She only knows that no leader listens to her plight. But she has heard about Modi, Yogi and Behenji.
She is also unhappy about scanty money her family got to build toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission, “we got 12,000 rs. You tell me, how can you build a toilet in 12,000rs. Nobody built toilets here.”
In the village, the majority of villagers are forced to opt for open defecation due to lack of toilets. Bimlesh, and Rama Devi are among them.
In the Phinihani village of Mehnagar Vidhan Sabha Kalinder Gond was preparing Jaggery, when BJP candidate Manjoo Suresh held a roadshow in his village. “A river called Magai flows here. And it gets flooded during monsoon season. We have been demanding a pull on the river. But nobody listens.” said 60-year-old Guddu Dubey. Floods and displacement during monsoon are big issues here.
“Gopalpur and Sagri constituencies are largely affected by it, and Azamgarh Sadar, Mehnagar are also affected,” said Khurram Alam Norani, a Senior Journalist based in Azamgarh.
On the other side, in Khojapur village of Azamgarh Sadar seat, some labourers are sitting smoking bidi (a cheap cigarette) at an under-construction building. Their apathy towards the electoral process is visible. Srimati Khatik, 55, runs a small stall. She says: “I didn’t vote in the last election. What happens by voting? I only voted in the election of village head last year because he gave us some money and promised ration.”
“I am poor and my husband is dead, and I am responsible to take care of my two sons. Unless someone offers me any benefit, why would I vote at all?”
The situation is somewhat different in the Dalit-dominated Bangaon village of Phoolpur-pawai Vidhan Sabha. People here are not indifferent to the BSP candidate Shakeel Ahmad. He speaks about the discrimination faced by the Dalits community and their emancipation under the rule of Mayawati.
A statue of BR Ambedkar is situated in the village. Shanti, a 30- year- old woman, said, “We vote in the name of Baba Saheb.” She comes from the Pasi community but is married into a Jatav family. “My family initially opposed it, but I revolted.”
(Image Credit- Mayank Jain Parichha)