She didn’t give her name. “What would you do by knowing my name?,” she asked. She refused to mention her husband’s name as well. In parts of Uttar Pradesh, as in several other parts of the Hindi heartland, many women don’t utter their husband’s name. On being asked about her caste, she told me that she and her family are Yadavs.
There was a glitter in the woman’s eyes, and she enthusiastically spoke about an LED bulb and electricity meter installed a month-and-a-half ago at her two-room house in Kusari village in the Bhadohi parliamentary constituency. She described how her life has changed in the last two months — what it means to her family to see light at her home with a simple flick of a switch after having lived in darkness for decades. Her young sister-in-law recalled how a simple task like charging a mobile phone would take her all day. For doing that, she would have to walk for two kilometres to a relative’s house and wait there for hours, which, at times, meant dealing with sarcastic words from neighbours. She said, “These kids are so happy to be playing in the light after sundown. Also, they can now study with ease at night.”
The two women then point to a toilet adjacent to their house, which has been built by government authorities. One could perceive their sense of relief when they spoke about the toilet. Their voting preference was summed up in one word — “Modi”.
About half a kilometre from their house was a basti of the Pasis, who are a Scheduled Caste. Jhuliram Pasi, and two other women, spoke about the “light” that they now see in their lives. For ages, they had lived in darkness after sunset. About two months ago, workers from the electricity department began setting up electricity lines to their kuchha and semi-pucca houses. What made them even happier was the arrival of toilets and an amount of Rs 4,000 to their Jan Dhan accounts, without them having to meet local babus or politicians. “Modi has given us so much; the least we can give him in return is our vote to him,” they said.
Close by, there was a cluster of houses of people belonging to Patels, an OBC category in the region. The look and feel of these houses distinguished this cluster from the Pasi locality. Here, an elderly woman said, “Our vote is for Modi and the BJP. Modi has done so much for us — he gave us toilets, electricity, and an amount of Rs 6,000. He works hard to bring some happiness in life of poor people.”
Among the people this reporter spoke was young Natwarlal Patel, who does odd jobs in Mumbai, and is presently at home on an extended holiday. Neither he nor other members of his family have received any installment under the Centre’s Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme, but he is optimistic that after the model code of conduct is lifted, he too will get the amount. Patel then asked if he would still get the money if a non-NDA government would come to power.
Ten kilometres away, in Jogapur village in Prayagraj district, Nandlal Kewat was happy that he recently got an electricity connection at his house, a toilet and money in his bank account. However, he felt that the electricity bill of Rs 340 for two months was an inflated one. While Kewat was all praise for Modi, he said that there should be system whereby people like him don’t get inflated bills and are not forced to make rounds of government offices.
The communities in the village were Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) and Scheduled Castes (SCs) — Binds, Bharatiyas and Banwasis. Here, women were seen to be articulate in voicing their opinions. They felt that electricity connections and toilets had made a difference to their lives. Three women — Geeta Devi, Sunita Devi and Baby said that their husbands got the amount of Rs 4,000. “We will vote for Modi,” they said.
Kisan Yadav near Parsawan was inclined to vote for Modi due to the BJP’s nationalism plank. Nandlal Yadav of Damodarpur village in Ghazibad spoke about the flaws in the SP-BSP alliance, and why many from his community would not vote for it, contrary to public perception. Although he identified himself as a “hardcore cycle supporter”, he was inclined to vote for the BJP as the Samajwadi Party had conceded the seat to the BSP.
In western Uttar Pradesh, in Allahpur village in Etah, Gurudev Sharma, Munim Sharma and Bhure Sharma voted for the BJP because their village got electricity supply two months ago.
“For all these years, we had felt discriminated against. The neighbouring village of Alipur, which has a substantial Muslim population, had got electricity supply during the SP government, but we were made to wait. Now, it is like Diwali in our village. In the previous election, we voted for the BJP because we wanted change. This time, it is a positive vote for the BJP.”
The BJP, in its battle against the arithmetic strength of the gathbandhan, is banking on “beneficiaries” of its schemes to tilt towards it. These beneficiaries cut across caste lines. Even if the BJP can get a reasonable percentage of Yadav and Dalit votes, it will put up a respectable performance in politically-critical Uttar Pradesh. The party’s numbers in this state will decide the fate of the slogan “phir ek baar Modi sarkar.”
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