Rahul conquers,but not all

At Parsaul,Rahul Gandhi has won the hearts of many by just turning up

Written by Deepu Sebastian Edmond | Published: February 27, 2012 2:46 am

At Parsaul,part of the Bhatta-Parsaul episode that rocked Uttar Pradesh last May,Rahul Gandhi has won the hearts of many by just turning up. The village’s Jatavs,however,remain behind the BSP.

“We have voted for the BSP,we have voted for the BJP. At one time this village voted for the Janata Dal. This time,we will vote for Dhirender Singh,” said Harendra Singh,a former village pradhan. Their primary preference is not the Congress,but its candidate,who helped sneak Rahul into the two villages in 2011.

The Indian Express travelled to three villages in Jewar constituency and along the Yamuna Expressway. Rahul visited Parsaul a number of times to take stock of the police action there,and passed through Mirzapur and Rampur Bangar during his July 2011 padyatra through villages along the Expressway.

In all villages,the controversies surrounding land acquisition seem to have brought the dominant Hindu castes under the Congress’ palm,while the Dalits seem to have gained confidence in the BSP government’s action against the dominant groups.

“Rahul came here,” Vijender Singh said in Parsaul,displaying his badly healed wounds from the lathis of the Provincial Armed Constabulary. “I cannot look beyond Dhirender this election. But for him,nobody would have known of our troubles,” he said.

Jats here say they were beaten up because of their caste. “They entered my house after they saw our caste’s name written on it,” said Dharamvir Singh,Vijender’s father. Villagers say the family had pasted a note at the gate saying they were not part of the agitation. “We are government teachers; we felt we did not need to run into the jungle as the others did,” Dharamvir said.

In the village’s Jatav locality,nothing has changed. “Why should we be part of their agitation? We don’t have any land,” said Vedram Jatav.

Sanjay Kumar,who works in Ghaziabad and who,unlike the others,said “BSP” rather than “Baspa”,agreed the government could have done more for Dailts,but wouldn’t blame Mayawati. “How much can the CM do from Lucknow? Bureaucrats are still reluctant to obey orders.”

Vedram and Sanjay said the biggest change over the last five years has been their relationship with the police — FIRs are registered instantly. Vijender,on the other hand,is still waiting for an FIR to be filed on the assault on him.

In Achheja village,enquiries suggested that Rahul had not passed through Muslim-majority villages,and that these are pockets under the Samajwadi Party’s grip.

Mirzapur

At Mirzapur,the Rajputs have decided they will vote like they have voted “forever”. Former pradhan Brij Mohan Singh,whose wife is the new pradhan after the position was reserved for women,said his people will vote for the Congress candidate,a Rajput himself,as “he is our Raja.”

“We Rajputs have 5,700 votes. The Brahmins have 100,the Jatavs 250,the Valmikis about 40,” Singh said. This surprised those around him. One spoke up: “I thought we had only about 50 Jatavs. We don’t see them around here.”

“We have got nothing from this government. There is the highway,but none of us has a got job there… The money we got is of no use. People are drinking it away,” said Jitender Bhati.

Rampur Bangar

Rampur Bangar has a Rahul story of its own. He stayed a night at Kalicharan Sharma’s house on the first night of his padyatra. Sitting outside the same building,his relative Gangaprasad Sharma is all praise for the Congress scion.

Rampur is a Brahmin-majority village,and Sharma claimed that the village votes for the Congress “all the time”,though he cited an exception. There is a caveat: the candidate has to be just right. “We voted for the BJP’s Mahesh Sharma in 2009 (Lok Sabha elections; he was a Brahmin.” According to him,this time the Congress has fielded the right candidate: “even if he loses,he will still be as powerful as an MLA.”

According to Sharma,the Expressway does not matter to the villages near it. “When we had the land,we would get at least two rotis a day. Now,the men drink,” he said.

Vijaypal Sharma,taking a break from campaigning for the Congress,flinched at the suggestion that some Brahmins would still be with the BSP after it had welcomed Brahmins into its fold in 2007. “People like Satish Mishra [the BSPs Brahmin face are a taint on Brahmins,” said Sharma.

In the Valmiki colony in the corner of Rampur Bangar,Pappu was reluctant to open up about his choice. “Some of us went for Mayawati’s rally in [Greater Noida two days ago,” he finally said. Pappu’s family balances its political choices; his younger son Rajesh attended Rahul’s Jewar rally on Thursday.

“The community will sit down on the day before the election and decide whom to vote for,” said Rajesh. He admitted that only the BSP and the Congress are on their minds at the moment. “My elder brother will definitely vote for the BSP. They gave him a job as a sanitation worker,” Rajesh said.

When asked about Bhatta-Parsaul,Pappu picked up a strand of straw from the gound. He pinched at one end and,lifting the straw,said,“This is the number of Valmikis who have land here. That way,Indira Gandhi did us all a huge favour by giving us the pattas for some land in the 1970s,” he said. Pappu has since sold that agricultural land to marry off his daughters.

“I remember Rahul Gandhi mentioning Bhatta-Parsaul in Jewar. He talked a lot about farmers; nothing about us,” said Rajesh. So,did he not hear Rahul talking of development for Uttar Pradesh? “No,I was at the back of the crowd. The speech was too long; I lost interest.”

In Tappal,little to suggest an election

But for a sign outside the liquor shop near the police station,announcing it would be shut three days,and for paramilitary force all over town,Tappal shows few signs of an election in progress. There are no posters,campaign vehicles are stripped of political imagery,and corner meetings are rare in Tappal town,part of Khair.

A police official said it was because of strict implementation of Section 144. When this reporter mentioned he has seen only one poster,the official said,“Where? We have to take it down.”

With no candidate to interact with,elders in Zikarpur village have decided to stick to caste equations. “Only the BJP has turned up,and only this morning. The candidate did not come,and they distributed calendars with Vajpayee’s picture on it. How will we know the candidate?” said Pravin Kumar of Zikarpur.

First-time voters are undecided. “I think I will vote for Sapa [Samajwadi Party. I went to their rally with people from the village. I have not seen any other candidate,” said Jawed Khan,18.

At Kripalpur,Sanjeev Kumar,22 and already a father,declares himself a BSP supporter. “We will make sure Behnji will win. She gave us the Antodaya ration card and continues to give free electricity to most houses. She needs our support,” he said. Kripalpur has a majority of Jatavs but no BSP leader has visited them yet.

Farmers of Zikarpur were involved in a 2010 agitation against low compensation for their land. Rahul Gandhi passed by these villages during his 2011 padyatra.

Jat-dominated Zikarpur has a significant numbers of Muslims,Suryavanshis and Jatavs. Candidates have visited only parts likely to vote for them. “The Sapa and Lok Dal candidates were here. I will vote as my family wants me to,” said Mahesh Choudhary,19,a dropout and a factory worker. He had a pamphlet the BJP had distributed among Jats.

In the afternoon,the headmistress of Zikarpur’s primary school handed 30-odd toddlers sheets with slogans. Headmistress Kripa Devi proudly describes herself as a Jatav who supports the BSP. When their rally reached the Jat locality,a villager quibbled,“These kids are shouting voting is ‘our’ right. How can it be their right?” The headmistress shot back,“They are reminding you; better go and vote.”

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