Located on the banks of the Ami river,this constituency in eastern Uttar Pradesh is witnessing a rather unusual election campaign by a nominee of Rahul Gandhi one centred around pollution and environment with economic,cultural and political overtones.
Vishwa Vijay Singh,39,has launched many agitations under the banner of the Ami Bachao Manch over the past three years to save the river from industrial effluents that threaten the local flora and fauna besides posing health hazards. He once led a mob that beat up a senior environment department official with shoes,blackened his face and made him wear a saree.
Today,a proud Singh declares at Bhiti Khori village ground that Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan has sanctioned a Rs 300-crore project for the Ami,on the banks of which Sant Kabir had renounced life (his samadhi in Maghar is just a few kilometres away),Guru Nanak had spent some time while travelling,and Prince Siddhartha had shed his royal clothes on the way to becoming the Buddha.
If you cannot fight without a post,you cannot fight with a post, he says. I had told Rahulji that if you want me to contest,get the government to do something. I am proud to say that the Government of India has done it. Give me one name who can get a Rs 300-crore project from the Government of India even without being an MLA. If anybody else has done it,I would say vote for him. But for once,rise above caste and religion and vote for who you think can fight for the development of Sahajanwa, Singh tells a responsive crowd.
There should be a debate on pollution and environment in elections just like bijli,paani aur sadak, says Singh who,besides his agitations,is known also for his overnight stays in poor villagers houses.
The constituency has a mix of 19 per cent Dalits,16 per cent Brahmins,10 per cent Yadavs,and 8 per cent Thakurs,besides others. Brahmins do not seem to be inclined towards Mayawati any more. Umesh Chandra Tripathi,a teacher in Mehrabari village,says,I voted for the BSP last time but they did nothing. I will vote for the BJP this time even if the vote goes waste.
SP candidate Santosh Kumar is vying with sitting Independent MLA Yashpal Rawat for Yadav votes. BSP candidate Brijesh Singh is of royal lineage and frequently gets mention in Vishwa Vijays speech for not even rolling down the windows of his big car while passing through villages.
Singhs oratorial skill and catchy promises evoke cheers. Stating that he does not need a Safari,he gives the registration number of his five-year-old Indica. You have my affidavit now, he says. If you choose me and five years later,if you see even a single pennys addition to my assets,chase me away from here.
He dares candidates from other parties to have a US-style presidential debate in front of the people. His padayatras have been drawing a good response. Says one youngster accompanying him,Sahajanwas results will show what works in UP selfless public service or caste.