Bulandshahr parliamentary constituency, which went to polls on April 18, saw a tight fight between incumbent BJP MP Bhola Singh, SP-BSP-RLD gathbandhan candidate Yogesh Verma and the Congress’s Banshi Singh. One cost of that fight may have been a part of the finger of Pawan Kumar, 25.
In a video circulated widely on social media after voting, Kumar, a Dalit resident of Abdullapur Hulasan village in Shikarpur Assembly segment of Bulandshahr, claimed to have chopped off the inked part of his finger after mistakenly voting for the BJP as he was casting a vote through an EVM for the first time.
“I could not tolerate it. I came home, picked up a gandaasa (a sharp object) and chopped off a part of my finger,” says Pawan, who helps his family with agricultural work. “The BJP has not done anything in the past five years. All of us wanted to choose the gathbandhan to vote out the Modi government. Main josh mein tha. Galti se kamal pe button daab diya (I was excited, pressed the button for the BJP by mistake).”
Kumar lives with his family in the Dalit part of the village. Mostly Jatavs (a BSP vote bank), and a majority in the village, the Dalits live separately from the Meenas and Thakurs. As deep a line now runs when it comes to affiliation to the BJP or the gathbandhan.
However, among those who don’t believe Pawan’s story altogether are his mother, Sheela (55) and father Jaipal Singh, in his 60s. Cradling her granddaughter near the maize fields, Sheela says, “Why don’t you tell the truth? That you wanted to vote again? That’s why you cut the bit of your finger.”
Sheela rues that since then, Pawan has needed injections every day to prevent infection. “He has brought on a needless problem. Now he lies dozing under the effect of medicines.”
A neighbour, who doesn’t want to be identified, says Pawan has been battling mental issues for four years. “He is taking some medicines. It is possible he lost his sense of judgment because of that on the day of polling.”
Jaipal recalls, “The media came looking for his finger, but could not find it. They just saw the bloodstained gandaasa, and posted Pawan’s video on the Internet.”
Bewildered at the attention, Jaipal adds, “Why care about it now when it’s gone? Waise toh koi poochta nahin (Nobody asks for us otherwise).”
The family owns 3.5 bighas of land and, like others in this village, primarily relies on agriculture as a source of income. Their main problem, says Lokesh Kumar (41), whose family grows maize and radish, is stray cattle destroying their crops.
Adds Nathu Singh (32). “Everyone is troubled. Those who were able to grow 4 quintals can now harvest just 2, because of these khule maveshi (stray cattle). Nobody is bothered in the government or the administration.”
Kalua Singh (40), who grows potato, adds, “The gaushala nearby is useless. Perhaps it doesn’t have enough fodder to keep these cattle within limits.”
In the Meena part of the village, though, “ek-ek vote (each vote)” is for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says Sachin Kumar Meena (25), who services automobiles at a shop in Shikarpur.
Srinivas (55), who earns Rs 200 daily as a barber, says, “That is how it should be. Duniya mein teesre number pe le aaye desh ko. Sabko baraabar samjha. Ye Behenji, Yadavon, Gandhiyon ka kya hai, ye desh ka thodi sochte hain (Modi has brought the country to No. 3 in the world. He treated everyone equally. Not like Mayawati, Akhilesh, the Gandhis, who don’t think about the country). All the Meenas and Thakurs here have voted en bloc for Modi. Here even the children are for Modi. You wait and watch, they (the gathbandhan) will fight among themselves for the PM post.”
Asked whether they were affected by the stray cattle too, Surinder Singh (41), who grows maize and radish, says, “It’s not Modi or Yogi (Adityanath) who are setting these cattle free. It is our job to control them.”
Riding the Modi wave in the 2014 elections, Bhola Singh had polled 60% of the 10 lakh votes in the constituency, defeating the BSP’s Pradeep Kumar Jatav by over 4 lakh votes. While most voters are not happy with his performance, Raju Kumar, who manages a store, says, “Yes, Singh has been booed by audience at rallies. But the vote is for Modi.”
The Meena side too has heard about what Pawan did. Says Sachin Kumar Meena, “The person who cut off his finger would never have done so had he seen the good work done by the government. So many toilets were built, so many houses given in these five years.”
Pawan’s brother Vinod, who drives a mini-truck for a living, says BSP workers came to their residence a day after polling to express support. “They sought all the details, had a chat with Pawan and told him that what he did was not right,” he says.
While the family says the party didn’t offer them any medical or financial support, BSP Bulandshahr district president Kamal Rajan says they tried to give “all kinds of medical assistance”. “But they said they will take care of it themselves. Wo ladka seedha hai, usse bas bardaasht nahin hui vote BJP ko (He is a simple guy, he couldn’t take it that he didn’t vote for the BSP)… Help is ready whenever the family wants.”