Updated: February 10, 2017 8:00:16 pm
Bisara village pradhan Hari Om was a busy man on Tuesday. “Mananiye griha mantriji kal chauthi baar hamare gaon aarahe hain. Bisara unke dil ke bohot kareeb hai warna chunav prachar ke liye koi itne chote gaon mein kyun aayega? (The Home Minister is coming to our village for the fourth time. Bisara is very close to his heart. Why else would he visit such a small village for election campaign?),” asks the pradhan.
The village falls under Dadri constituency of Gautam Buddha Nagar district which goes to polls on Saturday. A group of village leaders, including the pradhan, said they will vote for the BJP candidate, Tejpal Singh Nagar, a school principal. “Iss gaon se 90% vote Tejpal Master ko hi jaayenge and wahi jeetenge (90 per cent of the residents in Bisara will vote for the BJP candidate and he will win)” says Vivek Sisodia, a panchayat member.
Asked about the problems faced by villagers, Hari Om says, “Hamari sabse pehli maang hai ke hamaare bacchon ko jail se nikaala jaaye (Our first demand is that our kids should be released from the jail).” A village elder interrupted to add the roads connecting Dadri and Bisara were in bad shape and needed fixing.
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‘Bisara kaand’ — the phrase people in Dadri use to talk about the events of September 28,2015 — is a major poll issue in the village. Situated at a distance of 45 km from NCR, Bisara made national headlines in 2015 when a 50-year-old Muslim farmer of the village, Mohammad Akhlaq, was beaten to death by an angry mob post rumours that the deceased’s family had stored and consumed beef in their house. Akhlaq’s son Danish, who was also at the receiving end of the mob’s ire, sustained head injuries in the incident. The police had arrested 18 villagers in the case, one of whom was former village pradhan Sanjeev Rana’s son.
In the Sisodia Thakur-dominated village with approximately 5,000 voters, sympathies mainly lie with the families of the accused. “Police arrested the 18 accused without any investigation. A lot of the accused weren’t even present in the village on that day,” says a village elder.
“Bheer jurhi. Aur aakrosh mein peet dia. Maarne ka iraada nahi tha bheerh ka (The mob was agitated and so they beat Akhlaq. They did not want to kill him),” says Vivek. Referring to Akhlaq’s family, he says, “Akhlaq’s brothers got three flats. What was the need?” Asked how a BJP MLA would assist in a matter which is now in the hands of law, Vivek hits back: “He will at least try to do something for our people in jails, unlike Samajwadi Party that does caste politics.”
Villagers also complain against two-time sitting MLA from BSP Satveer Singh Gurjar, saying he has done nothing for the accused and the village. “He has just visited the village once in 10 years,” the panchayat members echo.
Dadri is a Gurjar-dominated constituency with mainly two factions – Bhati Gurjar and Nagar Gurjar. While the Samajwadi Party-Congress candidate Sameer Bhati stands a chance to rally Bhati Gurjars behind him along with Muslim voters and Akhilesh supporters, Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate Ravinder Bhati may cut into his vote share. Ravinder had earlier been nominated as the Samajwadi Party candidate for Dadri. However, after the SP-Congress alliance was announced, Ravinder withdrew his nomination citing health reasons. He later filed his nomination as an RLD candidate.
BJP supporters in Bisara understand the caste factor and vote share equation. “Sameer Bhatiji aur Ravinder Bhatiji ko jitne vote aayenge, utna hi bhajpa ko faayda hai. (The more votes they get, the more it benefits BJP),” says Hari Om.
The Muslim population in Bisara says they have not given much thought to voting. “Gaon waale jisko kahenge, usko vote kardenge (We will go with whatever the villagers decide),” says a woman resident. They refused to answer any questions on the ‘Bisara kaand.’
Sitting MLA Satveer Singh Gurjar is, however, confident of being lucky for the third time. Speaking to IndianExpress.com, Satveer says the Bisara incident isn’t as big a factor as the media is making it out to be. Speaking at Kheri Bhanauta, close to Mayawati’s ancestral village Badalpur, the BSP leader slams the Akhilesh-led government for not doing any development work in the village. “The state government did all the development work in Saifai,” Satveer alleges, while making sure he puts in a couple of strong lines against the Centre’s note ban move.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision to demonetise high-value currency notes, political analysts predicted the decision would affect BJP’s prospects in the five state Assembly elections. However, Dadri is divided over how it will react to the issue. Shiv Kumar, who owns a jewellery shop in Dadri, says he did not see any point in the government’s note-ban decision. “Modiji said he would eradicate corruption. But they there has been no survey of how much money has been recovered. The government should rather focus on probing the assets declaration of its own candidates.”
The businessman also predicted the baniya-class or vaishyavar vote share of BJP is likely to go down from 90 per cent to 40 per cent due to demonetisation. “I have always voted for BJP. But this time, I might not vote for them,” he cites his own example, adding that the Bisara incident was unlikely to affect the voting pattern in Dadri town.
Some do believe in the development narrative being pushed by the BJP and hence support demonetisation. “Satveer ji has not done anything for us. Yet, Kheri will vote for him because they support Mayawati. The youth of the village, however, will vote for PM Modi,” says 22-year-old Rinku Chowdhary from Kheri, a first-time voter. He applauds the prime minister for making the rich and poor stand in the same line for money. “He will create progress in this village and the country. You will see, in three years, the rupee’s value will be equal to the US dollar,” he claims.
Dadri ko saath pasand hai?
Akhilesh supporter Nasim Siddiqui says he wouldn’t have voted for Congress if there had been no alliance. “Hamein Congress pe nahi, Akhilesh ji pe bharosa hai (We believe in the leadership of Akhilesh and not Congress),” he says while sitting near a roadside shop in Dadri’s Muslim-dominated Nai Abadi colony.
Sameer Bhati, the SP-Congress candidate in Dadri, has a political background that works in his favour. His father, late Mahendra Singh Bhati, had been a three-time MLA from Dadri and a respected figure in the constituency. Supporters believe his legacy and Akhilesh’s positive image will help Sameer Bhati win the elections. “Valmiki, Dhobi, Koli…all these castes are supporting Samajwadi Party due to anti-incumbency,” Siddiqui says. He claims the minority would rally behind the SP-Congress alliance since “they had to defeat BJP.”
“BSP gave 100 tickets to Muslims only for two reasons: To ensure BJP’s win and SP’s loss,” alleges Md Islamuddin, a businessman. “Akhilesh is the best leader for us.”
Interestingly, Akhilesh’s support is not limited to the minority and the Yadav group. The Samajwadi Party infighting has improved the chief minister’s image in the region helping their poll prospects. “Akhilesh is a good leader. Crime has gone down in the state and will go down more now since Shivpal has been removed from the party,” says Shiv Kumar. “Instead of BJP, I may vote for Akhilesh this time,” he confesses.
While Dadri has nearly 4.4 lakh voters with a majority being from the Gurjar community, Dalits and Muslim communities come second and third in terms of presence in the region. The Muslims generally vote for the BSP candidate in the region. However, this time around, the Bisara kaand has left them disillusioned. A sitting-BSP MLA could not prevent the incident or bring the culprits to book, they claim. “BJP will do politics of religion. Only SP-Congress has the power to stop it. The Muslims will support him(Akhilesh) because this is a fight against polarisation,” says Imraan Mallik.
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