Residents of Ram Nath Kovind’s ancestral village Paraukh in Kanpur Dehat district celebrated in boisterous, earthy style as their “Babaji” was declared winner of the presidential election on Thursday. Both the young and the elderly danced in the streets in pouring rain as loudspeakers on a decorated “DJ van” throbbed with popular Bollywood and Bhojpuri numbers. For hours, the procession crawled through the village, and all of its residents celebrated with gulal. Some 50 Muslim families took out their own DJ van, and roamed the lanes dancing to the music it belted out. At a temple next to the school that Kovind attended as a child, an Akhand Ramayan Path had been organised in his name.
Almost everyone from 72-year-old Jabri Prasad, who said he was a classmate of the President-elect, to teenager Vaishnavi Chauhan to village resident Mohd Ashkan, had their own version of “vikas” that they wanted from Babaji. “Ab hum bhi VVIP chhetra mein ayenge na (Now, we too will be in a VVIP zone),” said anganwadi worker Pushpa Devi. Attached to the hope of membership of the VVIP chhetra is hope for a hospital, a degree college, good roads, drinking water, and a factory that could provide employment.
“Jabse Babaji ka naam aaya hai, baaees ghante bijli aane lagi hai. Ab sab badal jayega,” said Class 9 student Vaishnavi. She hopes she will be able to go to college near the village; Jabri hopes for a hospital close by. The nearest one currently is 35 km away.
About 20 km away in Om Nagar locality of Jhinjhak town, in a congested lane in which four of Kovind’s brothers have homes next to each other, a temporary tent had been erected and a big screen TV and music system rented, so that live updates from Delhi could be heard by the community.
Boxes of sweets were being circulated. Every visitor was stuffing Kovind’s elder brother Pyarelal’s mouth with sweets, ignoring his protests that he was diabetic. “I am happy and proud. He is a strict administrator,” he told them. One of the younger members of the family shouted, “Bihar ko baaees mahiney mein sahi kar diya. (Lalu Prasad’s son) Tejashwi (Yadav) ko bhi.”
Rama Shukla, who lives next door to the Kovind family, said, “Our situation should change now. We used to get 22 hours of electricity as Jhinjhak is part of the Kannauj constituency of Dimple Yadav (wife of former Chief Minister) Akhilesh Yadav. But now we get less than 12 hours on many days.”