Partys faith in cash-for-question accused MP to lead charge in underdeveloped seat seems misplaced
Akbarpur,the district headquarter of Ramabai Nagar (formerly Kanpur Dehat),resembles any small town kasba,where the only sign of development seems to be the four-lane National Highway No. 2. On one side of it,on Mati Road,are the government offices; while on the other side is the bazaar that does not seem to have changed over the last many years. The area goes to poll on February 23.
People here usually talk about erratic power supply,which increases the input cost for agriculture,inadequate water supply in the canal coming from Roora,and lack of adequate number of jobs for the youngsters in the factories of Rania,more than 10 km from here.
At one point,UP CM was the MP from Akbarpur twice. But barring a new set of government offices,nothing much changed in the late 1990s and early 2000.
Still waiting for development,the residents also talk about their representatives who remain absent between elections.
The two-time sitting MLA from Sarvan Khera,Ram Swarup Singh Gaur of Samajwadi Party,who is now the partys candidate from Akbarpur-Raniya,the newly constituted assembly constituency post-delimitation,has not been visible in the constituency. So is the case with the Congress MP from Akbarpur Rajaram Pal.
The comparison between a sitting MLA and an MP in an assembly election may sound incongruous. But post-2009 win,Pal was supposed to be leading the Congress charge in the area that has remained a dry region for the party. It was the BSP and the Samajwadi Party,which seemed to have all the winning cards in nearly two decades in the region dominated by Muslims,Yadavs,Harijans and Other Backward classes.
Pal was the MP from Bilhaur (which changed to Akbarpur post-delimitation in 2009) in 2004 from BSP. But he was expelled in the cash for question scam in 2005. Pal won in 2009 from Akbarpur Parliamentary seat on Congress ticket. Earlier,he had unsuccessfully tried to win the LS election from the then Bilhaur seat thrice in 1996,1998,and 1999.
Apart from Akbarpur-Raniya,the newly constituted constituency,the other four assembly segments under Akbarpur Parliamentary constituency are Bithoor (new),Kalyanpur,Maharajpur (new) and Ghatampur (now reserved). None of these constituencies have a sitting MLA from Congress.
During the rally addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week in Kanpur,Pal had talked about opening the account of Congress in his region in the same way as he had opened it in the Parliamentary elections.
Agriculture and the industrial belt of Raniya are two main sources of livelihood. But,say residents,there are problems in both the sectors. Raniya offers temporary jobs for the local residents,even as they wait for institutions that can impart technical education. The industrial belt is also facing closure of factories. Agriculture is dependent on tubewells and generator sets.
Such being the scenario,Pal has not been seen around in the area working to meet peoples aspirations and also set up a base for his party. He had given his usual speeches promising development in the region. But we have not seen him after he won the elections, says Pradeep Kumar Kashyap,running a cosmetics store in Akbarpur bazar. He says he would vote for SP,even though the sitting MLA from the party has not done much. Muslims in the area seem divided over going with the SP or Congress.
Raj Kumar Rawat,who runs a photo studio,says he could have chosen Congress but for the weak candidate.
Mathura Prasad Pal,the Congress candidate from Akbarpur Raniya,belongs to the same community as the MP. Mathura was with the BSP last time. Though he may get some support from the people of his community,as he is the only OBC candidate,not many are in his favour.
BSP candidate Pratibha Shukla,wife of Anil Shukla Warsi,who was defeated by Pal in 2009,has been nursing the new seat for quite some time. A sitting MLA from Chaubepur in Kanpur,which has ceased to exist,Pratibha has been visiting the area regularly. She has helped in improving the power situation in some areas. A few roads have been repaired. Baat party ki nahin hai,candidate achchi hain, says Sipahi Lal,a Lodhi by caste.
Elsewhere too,Congress seems to be fighting tough battle. In the newly constituted Maharajpur assembly constituency,for instance,the fight seems to be between BJPs Satish Mahana,who was five-time MLA from Kanpur Cantonment,and two-time SP MLA from the erstwhile Sarsaul,Aruna Tomar.