Azamgarh: Every nook and cranny in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh is buzzing with only one discussion -- the ongoing the Lok Sabha elections and the victory prospects of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, who is a candidate from the constituency.
People in Azamgarh are confident Akhilesh Yadav will win the seat, the only topic of debate is winning margin. The former UP chief minister is taking on actor-turned-politician Dinesh Lal Yadav aka Nirahua of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
While some believe that the SP leader will register an impressive victory with a margin of four lakh votes, some others (a small section), who are predominantly BJP supporters, were heard countering the dominant narrative, arguing that it will be a razor-sharp contest.
"Hum agar BJP ko vote bhi de dein to party ke log ye kabhi nahi manenge ki humne unhe vote diya, isliye hum gathbandhan ko hi votye denge (even if we vote for BJP, the party leaders will never accept the fact. Therefore, we will support the Alliance candidate only), Birju Das, a farmer in Hafizpur village of Azamgarh district, told Newsclick.
Asked about the prospects of the Alliance candidate and whether dalit votes will go in favour of a Yadav candidate, he said with a smile: "It is a childish question. Who is the SP candidate? None other than Akhilesh Yadav -- the face of social justice in the current era. As far as dalits are concerned, we feel closer to the Samajwadi Party (SP) compared with the BJP, which has the blood of dalits on their hands."
He said there was not an iota of doubt in his mind about the victory, “let's talk about the margin only. We will ensure that it is beyond three lakh." he said with confidence.
Harendra Yadav from the next village admitted that a section of the Yadav community committed a blunder in 2014 by favouring the BJP. They, he said, went ahead with the wave of the 'achche din' (good days) trusting Narendra Modi. "Now we are realising that our community has no place in the Modi or BJP government. We will not repeat the same mistake,” he added.
He shrugged off talk about a "close contest" between Akhilesh Yadav and Nirahua, saying: "Modi ji ko is chunav mein Pakistan, qabristan, sena aur Pulwama ko kyun kheenchna pad raha hai? Ye darshata hai ki BJP ki jad ukhad chuki hai (Why is Modi ji dragging Pakistan, graveyard and Pulwama in his election campaign? Just shows that BJP is losing ground).
Kanhaiya, who lives in the same village, intervened and explained that people in Azamgarh were not blindly supporting Akhilesh Yadav en masse. "There is a reason behind it. Under the leadership of Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is the incumbent MP from the Azamgarh, the district got a PGI, division airport, a dedicated hospital for women, agriculture university, renovation of the district building and the much-talked about Purvanchal Expressway (earlier known as Samajwadi Express) whose foundation stone was laid by the previous SP government in Uttar Pradesh. The work on this was started on war footing during Akhilesh Yadav’s government, but the Yogi Adityanath government re-inaugurated it and took credit,” he said.
He said BJP got a thumping victory in the previous general election riding on the promise of 'vikas' (development), which did not take place.
"No BJP is leader is talking about development. They are raking up one controversy after another to polarise the people. They should have told the people with conviction about the work done in past five years and their plan for the next five years, but the problem is that they have done nothing. Demonetisation failed miserably, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana was a flop show, people got LPG cylinders under Ujjwala Yojna for free but they don't have money for refill, Swachh Bharat mission was a photo-op. Though incomplete toilets have been built in villages, there are no jobs, as promised,” he added
Echoing similar sentiments, Shoremati, from another village, said "Duniya ko kya mila us se hame kya matlab. Hamein to kuch bhi nahi mila (It does not matter who got what, what matters to us is what we got).
Morati, 70, who runs a small shop in the village said: "The beneficiaries of this government are big people, we are marginalised and no government wants to raise our status. We survive on very little income and a small piece of land. We are unhappy because the government is trying to grab the land in the name of a development project.”
Ravi Ranjan Prashad, a medical representative, said the government only gave assurances but has done nothing. “We are disappointed as we had a slot of expectations,” he added.
The Yadav, Jatav and Muslim communities are numerically significant in Azamgarh. The yadavs are estimated at four lakh, jatavs 3.5 lakh, Muslims 2.5 lakhs, upper caste 1.5 lakh and rest are Other Backward Classes (OBC).
A major section of non-yadav OBCs, especially the sonkar community, appears to be in favour of the Opposition Alliance because they also bore the brunt of the dilution of the SC/ST Act, which was later revoked by the Modi government after a massive agitation. A large number of people belonging to sonkar community faced police crackdown and were booked under several harsh sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC).