UP Election Special
By Shivaji Sarkar
The high turnover of electorate in the UP elections may upset many poll forecasters. The electorate are patiently listening to the party leaders but are not accepting what they are saying.
At many places, the public reaction was too visible. In many cases, the voters whisper spoke more. The press seemingly tends to predict that the election is confined to SP, BSP and Congress. Others, according to it, matters less.
The campaigners of the Congress and its shadow parties are restricted to hurling accusations to corruption, non-utilisation of funds or non-release of funds. It has rarely gone beyond that.
National issues are important for UP. The state, however, is afflicted with too many local problems – crime, potholed non-existent roads, drinking water, power cut, schools without teachers, hospital without doctors and announcement of projects and their non-implementation.
Would Rahul Gandhi’s Bundelkhand tantrum pay for the party or go against it? Nobody has assessed it. Since Rahul has started focussing on Bundelkhand, took an apolitical Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declare a package, the number of suicides has increased.
During the past few months, over 519 farmers have committed suicide in the region. The tally in 2010 was 583, 2009 – 568. The reason was poverty, drought and apathetic administration, both at the state and central levels.
A sense of deception has gripped the people of the region. They do not trust either the BSP or the Congress. The local refrain is vaade hai, vaadon ka kya.
The Bundelkhand project, the locals recently demonstrated to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia that the wells dug for their welfare neither has depth nor water. To drive home the point, some of them jumped into the sarkari wells. They were neither hurt nor they got drenched. The wells were too shallow and dry.
It proved that schemes drawn in air-conditioned drawing boards by government bosses cannot deliver the goods. It also possibly points out how far are the ruling party campaigners be it in the state or the centre away from the reality and hearts of the people.
The farmers in the region are stated to be under a debt of Rs 45 lakh crore.
The centre is supposed to, have given Rs 700 crore assistance. Nobody checks whether it reaches down to the beneficiaries or not.
The farmers remain in the category of defaulters. It is said that 5123 farmers are in this category.
The worse is that 1986 farmers have received recovery certificates worth Rs 14.36 lakh crore. They do not know how to pay. The preferable option is to evade it by leaping to death and that is what they are doing.
They are extremely ashamed of the situation. They have the least heart to participate in the political process. They, however, may not miss the bus. Whom they are casting their votes has remained a card close to their chest.
Is Bihar an inspiration? Many say it is. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his BJP allies are not outcaste here. They also do not want to say if they are opting for them. Bihar instils hope. The people in Bundelkhand, however, may not just vote for this factor.
In southern UP –Allahabad, Mirzapur, Kaushambi, Banda, Sonbhadra, close to Bihar – the model is discussed. Those responsible for the changeover in Bihar are also being discussed. The voters, however, remain silent on their options. Rightly so. Voting is a secret process and voters do not want to be intimated.
Another factor is the OBC votes. Of late, the OBCs are voting many a time en bloc. The SP, Congress and BSP this time are keen on wooing Muslim voters. The OBCs had played significantly in the 2007 polls in voting Mayawati to power. This time they have distanced from BSP and are silent about their preference. They form a large majority and they might change the fate of the state.
Is the high turn out an indicator for change? Of course, elections are always for change and occasionally for continuity as in Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh.
In UP, it is apparently for a purpose of good and deliverable governance. The roads in shambles are symptomatic of a malaise of UP regressing during the past decade. Power is not supplied to most parts of the states beyond a few hours. The rural areas hardly get it.
Law and order in the state has not improved during the past decade. The goondas have only changed the political colour. It is one of the most unsafe states for doing business or starting an industrial project. More businesses have closed in UP all these years. Even many software companies have shifted from Noida. The industrial hub of Ghaziabad has turned into a mafia paradise. Industrial units are gasping as they have to shell out rangdaari tax – extortion money—to state’s powerful political clan ruling the state.
Bihar had become the yardstick for total regression. Nobody speaks about UP in those terms. The state is in a worse situation. It is far graver than Bihar. Migration may have stopped in Bihar. It has accelerated in UP. It has neither jobs, nor health care, nor food nor average means of sustenance.
The state needs a healing touch. It needs a leadership that delivers. The voter may be preparing for a silent revolution. If that happens, UP may break away from the rut it has set in. Else if the people vote as being predicted, it may not stop the process of regression.