Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate Amar Singh is jolted when a Fatehpuri Sikri voter comes up to him and says: “You can’t leave this area even if you lose. Work here for next five years, prove your worth, and we’ll vote for you next time.”
For a man who is making an electoral debut after being the favourite liaison politician in Delhi for years, the politics of Brij Pradesh is a tutorial, on the fast track.
“I decided to contest this election to prove I am not an armchair politician. I am now learning what ground politics is all about,” says Singh as he campaigns under a scorching sun. “I have had a kidney transplant, doctors advised me complete rest. I am not supposed to even shake hands with people. But this politics is different,” says the man who repeatedly refers to his betrayal by the Bachchans, the Ambanis and the Samajwadi Party.
Brij Pradesh is identified by gritty wrestlers, a trait prominently reflected in politics — the most famous being SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. The eight seats are at present shared by all parties — BJP, RLD, Congress, SP and BSP, besides a gritty Kalyan Singh who won as an Independent from Etah. A tiny geography, probably the only in the country, that sees perfect split among all players. BJP has only one seat, Agra, and the Modi wave might find it difficult to drastically upscale the party’s tally, making it probably the most challenging belt for the BJP.
Mainpuri is almost certain to return Mulayam; from Firozabad his brother Ramgopal Yadav’s son Akshay is making a debut and the odds are in his favour.
The only seat where, locals say, the BJP is certain to win is Etah from where Kalyan Singh’s son Rajveer Singh is making a debut. Mathura (Hema Malini), Fathehpur Sikri (Babu Lal) and Hathras (Rajesh Diwakar) are the constituencies where BJP is stronger, but not without problems. Babu Lal was with RLD for years before recently switching to BJP. His name surfaced in a sex CD and murder of a Meerut teacher years ago and Amar Singh repeatedly reminds voters that despite claims of good candidates by Modi, BJP has embraced a tainted man.
The campaign, in a way, is all about sleaze. In Mathura, BJP reminds voters that had Modi been the prime minister, Pakistan could not have severed the heads of two soldiers. One of them, Hemraj, was a resident of Mathura.
In Agra, BJP reminds Dalits about the murder of a community member Mukesh, allegedly by Muslims, in 2006.
The saffron camp calls Samajwadi Party the “Muslim League of Uttar Pradesh,” and in turn BSP chief Mayawati and Yadav consistently invoke fear of Modi among Muslims.
Amid this chaos, what stands out is that upper castes are gravitating towards Modi, fuelled by belief that he alone can “keep them (Muslims) under leash”.
The slogan among the Muslims is: “Na BJP se nafrat, na Mulayam/Mayawati se mohabbat. But do anything to prevent Modi.” Muslims have nearly one lakh votes each in almost all these seats, and while they have never been a BJP voter, this time they are voting in chunk for the strongest candidate. BJP, nevertheless, is confident to offset this by wresting the upper caste vote.