Call it politicsof matrimony but ‘Dadda’ Deepanarayan Singh,sitting MLA of Samajwadi Party,is banking on this to help see him through the caste cauldron against his Congress and BJP rivals in the assembly polls here.
Deepnarayan Singh,alias Dipak Yadav,has built for himself a constituency,many in politics would not have thought of which is group marriage. He faces Raja Ranjit Singh Yadav of Congress and BJP’s Tikaram Patel.
The group marriage concept has some sort of acceptability in entire Bundelkand region spanning Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Acute poverty is considered the main reason for popularity of this type of marriage particularly among the downtrodden classes.
Yadav,however,denies any political motive behind it. Yadav has been the national president of SPs youth wing Lohia Vahini. He started his politics with Congress and was the youngest student union president of Bundelkhand college from NSUI in 1980s.
Having married off almost 700 girls from different castes in his assembly segment,Yadav,called Dadda (elder brother) has extended his reach to a large number of households.
“The logic simple. Marriage of one girl brings in him contact with at least 50 of relatives and going by the number of marriages he has got done,he is personally known to the 35,000 people. All of them may not be voters or voting for him but that definitely gives a personal touch in his relationship to these families,” says Dharmendra Kumar in Jhansi.
By promoting group marriage,Dipak Yadav has sought to shrug off his image of a muscleman. He describes the cases against him as a “conspiracy” by his rivals and promises to marry off 500 more girls to suitable bachelors irrespective of whether he wins or not in this election.
“This relationship is in fact some sort of guarantee for these women that all is well. Their in-laws generally do not misbehave with them as they are after all Daddas sisters. If there is a trouble,Yadav is there to take more than just care of the trouble making in-laws” says Heeralal in Deemar Mohalla of Raksa village.
To mark a continuity of this connect,all these girls,including those from Muslim community,too tie him ‘Rakhi’ on Rakshabandhan.
“He invites all of us and honours us on Rakshabhandan. After we tie the Rakhi,he gives us gifts like suit pieces and saree. Dadda keeps us calling in between also to inquire whether we have any problem”,says Rukhsana of Madarganj in Month area. She was married in a group marriage in 1998. Her mother Sulatana is happy her daughter is settled well with her in-laws but adds “if there is a problem,Dadda is there.”
As one drives in and around the Jhansi city,the walls are littered with announcements of group marriages.
“These marriages generally take place between February and March and preferably on the auspicious occasion of Akhsya Tritiya. Some forward castes like Agrawals and Kushwahas have also adopted the practice to cut down expenditure on food and decoration in individual marriages,” says Brajendra Singh Chauhan,a college teacher.
Yadavs reach among women voters could be crucial. The assembly segment has over 143,000 voters. Dipak Yadav may be dismissive of Congress and BJP and claims his margin of victory will go up in a direct contest with BSP but supporters of Raja Ranjit Singh Yadav popularly known as Samthar Raja say their leader is not to be underestimated.