scorecardresearch
Saturday, Jan 28, 2023
Advertisement
Premium

Uttar Pradesh polls: In Maya backyard, a different statue story fuels Gurjar anger

On Tuesday, the last day of campaigning, BSP candidate Manbir Singh was hoisted onto the pedestal of the same statue, at PG College here, to slogans of “Gurjar Samrat Mihir Bhoj, amar rahein” and benevolent showers of rose petals.

BSP candidate Manbir Singh. (Express Photo by Shivnarayan Rajpurohit)

In this constituency that borders the national capital and includes the native village of BSP chief Mayawati, a missing word on a statue of a 9th-century icon looks set to dictate who people vote for on Thursday, which marks the start of elections in Uttar Pradesh.

On Tuesday, the last day of campaigning, BSP candidate Manbir Singh was hoisted onto the pedestal of the same statue, at PG College here, to slogans of “Gurjar Samrat Mihir Bhoj, amar rahein” and benevolent showers of rose petals.

Uttar Pradesh elections Phase 1: |liveFollow Live Updates

“We will not allow anyone to humiliate our Gurjar icon. We will ensure that this stops,” he declared.

The “humiliation” he is referring to, and repeated by all non-BJP parties in Dadri seat, is that the initial plaque for Bhoj’s statue, put up by the Yogi Adityanath government in September last year, did not have the prefix ‘Gurjar’. The government later corrected that, but for the around 2 lakh Gurjar voters of the total 6 lakh in the constituency, it was too little, too late.

Subscriber Only Stories
The K Arun Prakash Interview: ‘My style is to highlight the composition a...
At international checkpoint, online system  helps vehicles cross over sea...
Experts say Adani Group stock sell-off may not affect market, but deepens...
Delhi Confidential: Lok Sabha Speaker wants MPs to learn lessons from Pad...

Plus, it reinforced what many believe: about the Adityanath government being a pro-Thakur government. Thakurs also lay claim to the legacy of Bhoj. Now, with all the four main parties (the BJP, BSP, SP and Congress) fielding Gurjar candidates, the icon has become the poll issue.

While the BSP won Dadri in 2007 and 2012, the BJP had wrested the seat in 2017 amidst the Modi wave by a margin of over 80,000, getting more than half the votes. Apart from Gurjars, the other big chunk of voters are the Thakurs (around 1.2 lakh) and Muslims and Jatavs (80,000-odd each). With Thakurs seen as BJP voters, Muslims as the SP’s and Jatavs with the BSP, the Gurjar vote can make the difference.

Jagan Singh Nagar, a former employee of All India Radio, says: “The incident with the statue means the BJP favours a particular community… Even when Amit Shah recently visited Ghaziabad, he did not use the word ‘Gurjar’ while talking about Mihir Bhoj.”

Advertisement

A few kilometres from the college, SP candidate and its veteran leader Rajkumar Bhati has reached his last campaign stop for the day, at Milakh village. Hoping to get fifth time lucky after four failed attempts at the seat, Bhati is also talking about Bhoj.

“I was the first person to raise the issue (of the plaque) and even went to jail. Akhilesh Yadav ji also took it up. We worship Mihir Bhoj,” Bhati says, while declaring that should the SP win, it would install another statue of Bhoj, at the entrance to Greater Noida.

Sitting Dadri MLA Tejpal Singh Nagar, who has been fielded by the BJP again, calls it “nothing but politics”. “They have nothing else to offer.”

Advertisement

Many in the Gurjar community say the call between the three candidates above and the Congress’s Deepak Kumar Bhati ‘Chotiwala’ is tough. “How do you decide between your children?” quips a youth from Sadopur village.

Another youngster, Ankit Nagar of Accheja village, a BCom graduate preparing for government jobs, says the SP “might benefit the most” from the anger against the BJP. However, he adds, “most Gurjars in my village favour Yogi on account of free ration and removal of the mafia”.

In Badalpur village, the birthplace of Mayawati, the anger against the BJP is more palpable. “For us, the biggest issue is Mihir Bhoj,” says a youth.

Beyond the statue din, the promises that pop up are employment, better law and order, and housing and regularisation of colonies. Parts of Greater Noida, landscaped with luxurious buildings and convulsed by dug-up roads, also fall in the Assembly seat.

The SP’s Bhati, who got just 10,366 votes in 2017, and finished fourth, says the Adityanath government’s claims on law and order are false. “Look at the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) data, the picture will be clear… We have promised to provide jobs, improve law and order, bring down the power bill, regularise colonies and address issues related to flat buyers.”

Advertisement

Fighting his first Assembly election, the BSP’s Singh demands in his speech, at the statue, that the degree college where it is located be upgraded to a university. “Shouldn’t it happen?” he asks, to a loud response of yes.

In Badalpur village, residents say Nagar has neglected them. “The MLA has not shown his face in five years. Had the BJP fielded someone else, they may have had a better chance,” says Bheem Singh, a three-time pradhan of the village, adding that most of the 3,500 votes in Badalpur will go to the BSP, like in previous elections.

Advertisement

Bheem Singh credits Mayawati for giving the area “four colleges and four-five schools”. “She has given us everything without asking. She is our daughter and sister.”

While the Jatavs are still behind Mayawati, there are muted murmurs of the need for organisational changes. Most of the 19 MLAs who won on BSP ticket in the state in 2017 are now in other parties, a cause for instrospection. Some call for inducting “orators like Ravan (Chandhrashekhar Azad) or former JNU president Kanhaiya Kumar” to re-energise the party. Youths stress that the BSP should focus more on social media.

Advertisement

Vikram Singh, a BSP worker and nurse who lives at Mayawati’s ancestral house, regrets that the Bhim Army chose a separate path. “If Chandrashekhar Azad wants to grow, he should grow with the BSP. We supported his non-political Bhim Army. But he tried to enter politics separately. This was not acceptable to the Jatavs. He has to work more,” he says.

The BJP’s Nagar is confident he still has the backing of a majority, and says he has been with the people through “their happiness and sorrow”. Among his “achievements”, he lists three educational institutes. “As far as jobs are concerned, it is mandatory for industries to recruit 40% of their workforce from here. At least 600 companies are coming up here. It will benefit the youth.”

However, for now, work, as Salim in Dadri’s Raza Colony says, remains scarce. A construction worker, he adds: “Nowadays, I lug bricks for 12 hours for the same pay as for eight hours earlier… I will stamp the bicycle (SP symbol). Any other alternative? You suggest.”

First published on: 09-02-2022 at 22:02 IST
Next Story

Juhu Police lodges NC complaint against actor Aditya Pancholi for assaulting producer

Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
close