The Congress campaign for Uttar Pradesh began from this village five months ago. Vimla Devi, a housewife, recalls that September morning when Rahul Gandhi visited her home. His helicopter landed in the nearby field. Like others, Vimla Devi signed the Congress’s kisan mang patra promising a debt waiver and halving of power bills. Five months on, she is not sure whether she will vote for the Congress. Her neighbours Pradyuman Singh and Bade Lal, on the other hand, aren’t as uncertain. The former has made up his mind to vote for “Narendra Modi” while the latter prefers “Panja” although he is not happy with the Congress’s alliance with the Samajwadi Party.
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Rahul had visited the houses of all three in this village, part of the Congress-held constituency of Rudrapur, on September 6 before kickstarting his yatra from Deoria to Delhi. The village was selected for the launch of the signature drive because of its history of voting for the Congress. All of them having signed the kisan mang patra, some such as Ramba and Indravati believe their power bills will be halved if “Rahul Gandhi wins”. Many others in the village, which they say has traditionally voted for the Congress, believe Narendra Modi is doing some good work although they cannot specify what they like. Demonetisation, they say, did not affect them much.
With days left for polling, the village seems to be torn between the BJP and the Congress, an indication of the intensity of the contest in many seats of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The BSP too is in the fray. Deoria district has seven seats, of which five are held by the SP and one each by the BJP and the Congress. Rudrapur is the only one where the Congress is contesting; it has renominated its sitting MLA Akhilesh Pratap Singh. The BJP has renominated Jai Prakash Nishad, who lost the last three elections he contested. Singh says he is sure of winning.
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“I am not sure whom I will vote for,” Vimla Devi says. “My daughter is saying I should vote for the BJP. I will decide when I go for voting.” Most of the elders prefer to keep their choice close to their chest while the youngsters are more forthcoming. Some say the Congress MLA has done good work while others wants Modi to be “given a chance”. The name of the BJP candidate has not yet registered with most. All they identify the party with is Modi and the phool symbol. “We have kept the receipt of the mang patra that we had signed. Let’s see whether we will get something,” says Indravati.
The Nishad community is in a majority in Rudrapur. With the BJP and BSP candidates fielding candidates from that community, the Congress believes there will a split in their vote. The BJP, however, says Nishads are with the party. The constituency has a significant number of Yadavs and Muslims, the traditional SP votebank, which the Congress is hoping will transfer to it.