Besides a large photo of Samajwadi Party MLA Deepnarain Singh, his poll banners in Gauratha splash two more pictures. One is of Rajya Sabha MP Chandrapal Singh, himself a former MLA. The other is of Congress leader Ranjit Singh Judeo, who contested the seat successively for over three decades until his party ceded it to the SP this time. Judeo, from the erstwhile princely state of Samthar, won six times until the emergence of the SP and the BSP in 1990s. In each of his last four defeats, Judeo got close to 40,000 votes. Now many Gurjar voters, seen as loyal to him, are upset with the idea of voting for the SP. Another potential stumbling block for the alliance is the relatively low number of Muslims.
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In Garautha, many Gurjars say they will vote for the BJP which has not won the seat since 1985, not even during the Ram Mandir movement, and which has failed to do well in the rest of the region for a long time.
“The SP candidate may move around with Judeo’s picture but none of us will vote for him. All are going to the lotus — Gaderiya, Kushwaha, Brahmin, Kori,” says Vishwanath Singh, a Gurjar farmer in Moth town.
Pranatpal Singh, in Samthar, says people are tired of “the Yadavs’ dominance in administration and politics” and are going with BJP’s Jawahar Rajput, of the backward Lodh caste that has a sizeable population here.
In most of the 19 seats in Bundelkhand, SP supporters say they would have done better without the alliance. “Take the example of Garautha. If Judeo had contested he might polled those 40,000 Gurjar votes… now if even 30,000 of these go to BJP, it will be far ahead of us,” says an SP leader in Jhansi.
Congress supporters too are upset with the party’s decision to ally with a party facing anti-incumbency. “The Congress is playing a secondary role to the SP. We have voted for the Congress in the past but this time I will vote for the BJP,” says Laxmi Prasad Mishra, a retired teacher in Atarra of Naraini. Here, Congress candidate Bharat Lal Diwakar is banking on the numerically strong Brahmins.
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Many Yadavs, traditional SP supporters, say they will go with the Congress nominees, which has led to the impression that the alliance is benefiting only the Congress. “Even if the Congress gets some benefit, the SP won’t. Only there is more internal opposition now,” says Tej Pratap Yadav, SP pradhan of Pachpahra village in Mahoba.
In Reuna village of Banda, Bhetu Prasad Yadav says, “The entire Yadav clan is with Congress. Even if Congress MLA Vivek Singh loses some of the votes he got in 2012, there are 30,000 Yadavs to make up for that.”
The village chowkidar, Maniram, belongs to the Khangar backward caste and is thinking about change. “We have long supported the SP but we got nothing,” he says. The BJP’s campaign pitch is that non-Yadav backward castes have been ignored by the SP.
“I did an LLB from Lucknow University, but failed at job interviews. No one gets through interviews without a bribe. I have been supporting the SP for years but not anymore. What did we get for being backward?” says Kranti Bahadur Sahu, 37, who sells Chinese food in Sumerpur town in Hamirpur. He says he supports Modi though he is unhappy with the BJP candidate.
“Even if Akhileshji sent something for us, it didn’t reach us. Last year, all villagers got rations for drought-hit farmers, but the pradhan said I am ineligible as I own a tractor. I will still vote for SP but my sons talk about Modi,” says Shivram, 67, a backward Nai voter of Ladpur village in Charkhari.
The BJP’s poll promises like farm loan waiver are part of discussion across villages and so are Modi’s speeches.
Kevat Tola of Sikulha village on the banks of the Yamuna has only people from the backward Nishad caste. A few women sitting around the fireplace say they will vote according to orders given by their men. A child of about 10 lets out that the village is voting for Modi. “Our hamlet will vote for Brajesh Prajapati (BJP). My parents voted for Modiji last time too,” agrees schoolboy Awadhesh.
Congress MLA Daljeet Singh is the SP-Congress nominee. “The wife of former SP MLA Visambhar Nishad had been given the SP ticket but it was taken away. He has not yet asked his supporters to vote for the Congress candidate. Nishads may go anywhere,” says Lallu Prasad Raikwar, an SP worker.
In Pailani Dera, also in Tindwari, BA student Mahesh Kumar says, “We have seen SP and BSP. Now it’s time to test BJP.”