UP polls: Parties say BJP setting agenda; voters praise end but ask how long do we suffer the means?

Demonetisation enters third week, The Indian Express travels through poll-bound UP to listen to the lines.

Written by Apurva | Bhatta-parsau | Updated: November 25, 2016 5:56 am
 demonetisation, cash crunch, uttar pradesh demonetisation, uttar pradesh elections, rs 500 ban, rs 1000 ban, mayawati, akhilesh yadav, bsp, samajwadi party, Bhatta-Parsaul, rahul gandhi, wage payment, poor suffer, demonetisation poor suffer, indian express news Outside the Punjab National Bank branch in Bhatta village. Source: Praveen Khanna

THE six-lane Yamuna Expressway turns off into a zero-lane dirt road. Past skyscraper shells in varying stages of completion, sprawl green tracts of pristine farmland. SUVs and luxury cars fight for space with bullock carts and autorickshaws ferrying three times the passengers they were meant to hold.

And then, you hit that line.

The long line outside the only branch of the only bank that serves the 20,000 voters of Bhatta-Parsaul, the twin villages that embody the contrasts of Greater Noida. Where the urban mingles with the industrial and then blurs into the rural which fights to reverse the chain.

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In 2011, this was Ground Zero of violent protests against land acquisition for the expressway by the BSP government in Uttar Pradesh under Mayawati. Five years later, the Samajwadi Party is in power, Greater Noida has moved on, the Expressway connects Delhi to Agra in under four hours, and the battle for the heartland has begun as another assembly election is around the corner.

But in Bhatta-Parsaul, the talk today is all about the cash crunch, slow business and increasing credit lines at shops, coaching centres, fertiliser markets, the police station and in homes.

Glaringly obvious is the financial hardship. Also glaringly obvious is many people speaking up in support of what “Modiji has done”. The moral high of being part of a nationwide narrative, of taking part in the fight against black money.

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Scratch the surface and you will find the contours of a curious dilemma, one that residents hope to resolve, or hope it will be resolved, by the time they have to line up again — to cast their votes.

Everything, says one resident, depends on how the Centre’s demonetisation policy plays out over the next few weeks.

At the centre of Bhatta, at the site of the 2011 protests, a loudspeaker is still tied to a telephone tower, a tattered election poster hangs by its last nail on the boundary wall. A small two-room structure has come up here — one with a bed, a TV and an earthen pot; the other, bigger room is a portal to the past, with rusted microphones, posters that have turned yellow and loudspeakers gathering dust.

Kale Singh, the owner, points to a row of skyscrapers under construction in the distance. “Look below and you will see the Expressway. That is all our land. The government took our land and built that road for people like you from Delhi. And what did we get? Ten days of television, headlines and weeks of police deployment,” he grumbles.

Those were the days when Rahul Gandhi, then heading the Youth Congress, camped here, even embarking on a padyatra in support of farmers seeking enhanced compensation and made land acquisition a key election issue. But the Congress candidate from Bhatta-Parsaul, Dhirendra Singh, lost the 2012 assembly election making way for the BSP’s Vedram Bhati.

So what will 2017 bring? Singh is wary. “Rahul Gandhi came here and became famous. We support him for championing our cause. But I have my doubts this time. Since that agitation and the failed 2012 campaign, we have never seen him. I watch him on TV and tell my relatives that he once sat on my land with me,” he says.

But then, Singh has little time to chat. With labourers to pay, seeds and fertilizer to buy and a family to feed at home, he has to make it to the Bhatta branch of Punjab National Bank.

At the branch, it’s 1.50 pm, and the staff is yet to take a lunch break. The shutters are down and inside, men and women stand in separate queues at the cashiers. Outside, a larger crowd waits for its turn. Customers outside vent their ire on three policemen on security duty who offer sympathetic shrugs — they have not withdrawn any money either.

“We are doing the best we can,” says a bank official. “But this village is better than others. Here, they made their own rules — separate queues for women and tokens. They also decided that customers would share the amount in the bank every day. If we have Rs 1 lakh, then 50 customers will withdraw Rs 2,000 each.”

There is an ATM outside but it hasn’t worked for two years now and most villagers have little use for ATM or debit cards. “They tell me it’s easier. But how? I have seen lines outside the ATM in Dankaur nearby. It never ends and it never has money. At least a bank official gives me some information here,” says Jitendra Singh, waiting outside the bank.

Caught off guard, the SP, BSP and Congress have found campaigning and canvassing for votes hard, especially with little or no input or directions from their high commands.

According to Devendra Singh Chowdhary, the SP Jat Sabha secretary, the party has been helping people in queues. “There is no other issue here. Right or wrong, good or bad, we are all in the same boat,” he says. The Congress and BSP have adopted the same approach.

Dhirendra Singh, the Congress candidate in 2012, explains: “For the foreseeable future, no other issue matters. The BJP has set the agenda and it depends on how this plays out. If currency is not injected into the market over the next two weeks, there will be protests but if things go right, the BJP will be the party to beat in the assembly elections,” he says.

Another Congress leader, Tanu Chauhan, who runs a coaching academy in the Dankaur, agrees. “Cutting down black money is a good move. It affects everybody and is hard to speak against. I am waiting for orders from my party leader in Delhi. Most people say it’s a good move, some say nothing will change. I don’t know what to really say,” he says.

Voters here face the same contrasts that Greater Noida mirrors. “I am confused. Should I vote for a leader in Uttar Pradesh or for Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Should I vote for improvement in health, education and transport, which Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has managed in five years, or for Modi’s party? It’s a tough choice, the next two weeks are crucial,” says a senior police officer, on condition of anonymity.

Even before demonetisation, it was the BJP that led the news cycle, say residents. “Before November 8, people were talking about the surgical strike and Pakistan. And before that, it was Kashmir. The BJP sets the agenda, we have to explain what it means to the voters,” says Chowdhary.

And then, how will he do that? He lists the questions he asks voters when they talk about demonetisation. “If this is going to stop black money, why print a Rs 2,000 note? Why should you have to stand in line for your own hard earned money, when those with black money have already invested in real estate or gold? You have been standing in line for ten days, how many black-money hoarders have you come across?”

The police officer chips in. “I have spent my life in service and my family has sent several jawans to the Army. You can conduct a surgical strike, but parroting it as your own achievement is at your own peril. These people are putting up posters thanking politicians for the strike, when none of their sons or family members is in the forces. People don’t like this,” he says.

A shopkeeper on the main road in Bhatta says, “Akhilesh started the 108 ambulance service, increased job recruitments and built better roads. Mayawati brought development to Noida. In Narendra Modi, the BJP have a strong leader working for the nation and the Congress has its legacy. It’s a tough choice for us. I tell all parties I will surely vote for them. In the end, I will be in the voting booth on my own and nobody will know what I do.”

(Tomorrow: In Aligarh and Mathura, a common strand)

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First Published on: November 25, 2016 5:19 am
  1. P
    Pankaj
    Nov 25, 2016 at 3:52 am
    IE is the only Honest unbaised News Source in India which stands for truth no matter what BJP and RSS Bhaktjans say or think. Standing for people is a very difficult job specially when party like BJP is in power bent on bullying the Media to toe its line.
    Reply
    1. R
      Rajesh
      Nov 26, 2016 at 2:00 pm
      But we will defeat him like what we did in Delhi and Bihar. Rest ured about that.
      Reply
      1. R
        Rajesh
        Nov 26, 2016 at 2:04 pm
        This is a big scam by Modi/BJP. They got all their Black monies converted into white before announcing the demonetisation. BJP purchased 23 pieces of land in Bihar in the last two months before announcement of demonetisation? Payment of the price of these lands by cheque is no defence, as no real estate property is purchased without some payment in white/by cheque and the major chunk of the price in cash. Only for this reason, Real Estate is regarded as the major source of black money in India as only 40% of the price is paid by cheque and the balance 60% is paid in cash.
        Reply
        1. D
          Dharamvir Saihgal
          Nov 25, 2016 at 5:57 am
          "Bhikha baat adham ki, kahan sunan ki naahi,lt;br/gt;Jo jaane so kahe nahi,jo kahe so jaane naahi."
          Reply
          1. A
            A. Ganguly
            Nov 25, 2016 at 5:33 pm
            Mamata for next PM. Modi will be removed from power soon and people will have change to elect a new Government. Failed BJP Government want's to make India a failed country like Somalia. Abki Bar Mamata Sarkar. Long Live 125 crore people leader Mamata Banerjee.
            Reply
            1. A
              Anthony
              Nov 25, 2016 at 4:29 am
              Abki Baar Mamata Sarkar. Long Live Didi.
              Reply
              1. D
                Dash
                Nov 25, 2016 at 6:17 am
                BJP has already a big lead in UP elections. Ground level workers of corrupt Maya have stopped campaigning. BJP should aim for 270 seats.
                Reply
                1. B
                  Bijan Mohanty
                  Nov 25, 2016 at 4:43 am
                  BJP will be wiped out in UP elections.
                  Reply
                  1. B
                    Bijan Mohanty
                    Nov 25, 2016 at 6:32 am
                    BJP will be wiped out in UP.
                    Reply
                    1. B
                      Bijan Mohanty
                      Nov 25, 2016 at 6:36 am
                      Tu to sachmuch pagal ho.
                      Reply
                      1. B
                        Bishen
                        Nov 25, 2016 at 4:15 am
                        Great Job IE. People Love Truth and hate Jumlas
                        Reply
                        1. C
                          Chandrashekhar Deshpande
                          Nov 25, 2016 at 2:48 am
                          SP, Mayavati Rahul baba should recurit some gang to destroy bundles of notes so there will some releif to Be-rozgars.
                          Reply
                          1. K
                            Kaliyug
                            Nov 25, 2016 at 2:40 am
                            Any credit card can be paid off, within the stited period, has no interest charged, there are many Indians falsely claiming that companies that issue credit card charge interest just for using the card. Many people who oppose the banking sectors are also people who have made money in many unscrupulous ways, they are unable to bring it into the open and spend it, they are having sleepless nights, have been employing their domestic help and marginalized people to whiten their ill-gotten gains via the banking sectors. ManMohan is batting for those people who benefited out of all the Congress scams, he is afraid that Congress without money will be Congress without power, will be Congress in the history books.
                            Reply
                            1. D
                              dd
                              Nov 25, 2016 at 3:36 am
                              IE has agenda to have negative headlines for for givernment.. Good going but can't change out come...
                              Reply
                              1. D
                                dd
                                Nov 25, 2016 at 3:52 am
                                IE's irresponsible campaign against PM Modi
                                Reply
                                1. G
                                  gc
                                  Nov 25, 2016 at 10:14 am
                                  How long people have to suffer? Ask those who have been living with sewage mixed water or no water, no electricity,no healthcare,not enough to eat,curling up in winter at platforms,working in the scorching heat in the month of June at construction sites.ASK THEM.They will tell you that standing in a que for few hours is nothing,even if it just serves as a REVENGE and nothing else against those who looted their money,this is worth it.
                                  Reply
                                  1. H
                                    Hudaf Shaikh
                                    Nov 25, 2016 at 11:23 am
                                    What is shocking is that the opposition parties - Congress, BSP, SP, CPM, TMC have done nothing to alleviate the difficulties faced by the common man - rather by blocking all discussion in parliament where as MPs there are expected to bring up the common man's issues for resolution, they have failed the people very badly.
                                    Reply
                                    1. J
                                      Jenny
                                      Nov 25, 2016 at 4:18 am
                                      Bringing Reality to the people does not mean IE is against anyone. IE is completely neutral.
                                      Reply
                                      1. I
                                        Intolerant Logic80
                                        Nov 25, 2016 at 7:16 am
                                        YEs, like you did with MMS for 10 years. You cried then and today you cry as well.
                                        Reply
                                        1. R
                                          Ram
                                          Nov 25, 2016 at 1:11 pm
                                          Sir,lt;br/gt;Do not give more promise. Fulfill what you have said in 2014 during lok shabha election.lt;br/gt;1.0 Job for youth. now reducinglt;br/gt;2.0 Price rise, now double or some commodity triplelt;br/gt;3.0 Black money from swiss bank, along with Baba Ramdev.. no action.lt;br/gt;4.0 USD to inr now over 68 rs, you promise to 40.
                                          Reply
                                          1. V
                                            Vish Ontoor
                                            Nov 25, 2016 at 5:30 pm
                                            But Akhilesh would be put down by Mulayam Singh.
                                            Reply
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