About 130 km from Lucknow, where Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi put up a show of unity a day earlier, people in Sandi reserved constituency of Hardoi district are making fresh calculations in light of the Congress-SP alliance. This is one seat the SP holds but has given to the Congress.
“We are Mulayamwadi, behind the party with the cycle symbol, but this time I have no option but to vote for the hand,” said Raja Ram Yadav, 75, of Kakeri village, which has a dominant Pasi population. “What else can I do? I cannot go with BSP, there is no point wasting my vote on BJP.”
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Sandi, represented by SP’s Rajeshwari Devi, is now being contested by Omendra Kumar Verma of Congress, who had stood third behind Devi and the BSP’s Virendra Kumar.
Bhagwan Deen, 54, a Dalit of the same village, is weighing his options. “Caste matters a lot,” he said, observing “BSP and Congress both have fielded good candidates”. He feels not more than 50 per cent SP votes would transfer to Congress as there is anti-incumbency. To this Yadav adds, “That’s more than enough for SP to form a government again.”
Sangeet Pandey, 30-odd and a graduate, compares the BSP and SP regimes. “BSP had created a larger number of vacancies. During the SP government, vacancies were limited to only one caste.” Yadav leaves now, repeating it is his compulsion to vote for panja.
A few kilometres away at Durgaganj, Satyendra Kushwaha, 31, thinks that all who wish to see the SP government come back to power would vote for the Congress candidate, whether he is their first choice or not. “The alliance will not have made much difference here as the SP candidate has not worked. All those who vote for the alliance will do so only for Akhilesh and personal goodwill for the Congress candidate… There is not much development here but there are some beneficiaries of Akhilesh’s Samajwadi Pension scheme in my village. They will vote for Congress.”
Longshree, standing nearby, contradicts him, “I don’t know much about voting but I was not included in the pension scheme.” She refuses to say more.
The local leadership of the two parties too are facing a new challenge. Ram Chandra Gupta, SP adhyaksha for Sandi constituency, says, “For hours, we have had a debate with workers explaining the alliance is what out national president wants and it is what is good for the party.” On Mulayam Singh Yadav’s apparent lack of support for the alliance, SP’s Hardoi district president Sarafat Ali says, “Netaji has made suggestions while the decision is the president’s, which we have to follow.”
And Shashi Bhushan Shukla, Hardoi city Congress president, says confidently, “The SP votes will transfer to us.”