Uttar pradesh

In U.P.’s Hardoi, Kurmis split on ration versus quota

Nitin and Prakhar Patel, both 27, educated and unemployed, are enraged at the way the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP regime in Uttar Pradesh has handled recruitment for various government jobs.

“At least during the time of [Samajwadi Party chief] Akhilesh [Yadav], recruitment posts were filled. Under this government every bharti [recruitment] is either halted by court or the exam paper gets leaked,” said Mr. Nitin.

Mr. Patel, whose recruitment as a daroga (inspector) is still pending since 2016 due to legal obstacles, shares his frustration.

Free aid

“We don’t want ration and ₹2,000 [income instalment provided to farmers under the PM-KISAN scheme since 2018]. We want jobs. These people are getting ruined in the whirl of ₹2,000,” said Mr. Patel, pointing to a group of elder men who were vouching for the BJP government’s free ration scheme.

“Just wait, after March [election result] you will stop getting this free ration!”

The two young men from the Kurmi caste (OBC) live in Purwawan, a large village in the Bilgram-Mallawan constituency in Hardoi, located in central Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP made its biggest gains in 2017.

Purwawan is also dominated by the Kurmis, one of the largest non-Yadav OBC castes in the State, roughly around 8% of the OBC population.

They are closely linked to farming and along with the Pasis (Dalits) dominate the political demography in this region.

While in 2017, the Kurmi community strongly backed the BJP against the incumbent SP, which was under fire for perceivably favouring Yadavs, this time, though the BJP still has plenty of takers, a feeling of disenchantment is perceptible, especially among the youth.

In Purwawan, the opinion was split, indicating that the incumbent BJP’s sway over the narrative has faded relatively.

Some residents praise the BJP government for the cash doles, free ration during the COVID-19 second wave and its handling of law and order. They are still suspicious of the SP, which has projected itself as the main contender, and say that ‘ gundai, lafangai and danga fasad ’ are more common in its rule.

“We have not had it in our area but we watch it on TV and read it in newspapers that there is goondaism in Yadav and Muslim-dominated areas. Ours is a Kurmi-dominated area, there are no Yadavs here. Here it is the Kurmis who do ‘ gundai ’,” said Ram Chander Singh, a farmer, who wants to give the BJP a second chance.

Almost all farmers are unanimous in expressing that stray cattle are damaging their crops, but only some blame the BJP for it. For many Kurmis here, however, there is something bigger under threat under the BJP government: arakshan (reservation).

In 2017, Om Prakash, who owns three bighas of land, had voted for the BJP hoping it would usher in new development after a sanyas of 14 years. But he is now embittered.

“They are eating up our reservation. Our youth are wandering about hopelessly, while the bulls and cows are eating up our wheat crops,” he said.

Mr. Prakash alleges that the BJP government is giving seats meant for the OBCs to candidates from the “upper castes.”

“We are not getting the quota mandated to us by the Constitution. Isn’t this wrong,” he asks, accusing Mr. Adityanath of promoting the dominant Thakurs.

This is when another Kurmi farmer cries out that under the SP government they would have to encounter ‘ Yadavvad ’. However, surprisingly, many rush in to reprimand him.

“Are Yadavs high caste? They are also OBC. They are not tampering with the Constitution, are they,” asked Raiveer Singh, also a farmer.

The three main parties have all fielded Kurmi candidates in Bilgram-Mallawa. While the sitting BJP MLA Ashish Kumar Singh Ashu and the SP’s nominee Brijesh Kumar alias Tillu Bhaiya are strong contenders, for many, the BSP’s candidate Satish Verma, a two-time former MLA, could prove to be a dark horse owing to his personal record and Mayawati’s loyal Dalit vote.

In the Balamau reserved constituency too the Kurmis are split on similar issues. Kuldeep Singh, who grows wheat, mustard and potato in Hasnapur, says stray cattle issue is not a deal breaker for him.

Under the BJP, roads were built, his village gets “24 hours power supply,” and the “best of all,” he says, “Terrorism is now eliminated.”

He rejects Mr. Akhilesh Yadav outright. “He works as per jativad (casteism). It is not so under the BJP. Even Kurmis get samman and suraksha ,” said Mr. Kuldeep Singh, stressing that despite an unpopular sitting MLA he would still vote for Mr. Adityanath, whose Thakur background does not really bother him.

Ramesh Chandra, who owns two bighas, says if the SP is elected to power, corruption and goondaism will increase.

“Will mehengai (inflation) go down if Akhilesh Sarkar comes? Fuel comes from abroad. He cannot change the value. It depends on the international bazaar,” he said. Another farmer Deepu is terrorised by Nilgais eating up his crops but prefers Yogi as Chief Minister.

So does Surendra Pal. “We get ration twice a month and kisan samman needhi. What else do we want? There was some difficulty and delay in procuring urea and DAP but we eventually got it,” said Mr. Pal.

But the dissenters also speak in equal volume. Like in Bilgram-Mallawan, their grouse is that the BJP has short-changed the backward classes.

Backward ka haq kha liya ,” says Ashok Kumar, who voted for the BJP last time.He refers to the backlog in BTC (Basic Training Certificate) and other recruitment drives.

69,000 issue

 

Another talking point is the recent decision of the Allahabad High Court to stay the Yogi government’s last gasp decision to appoint 6,800 additional candidates as primary teachers after some reserved candidates contended that in the recruitment for 69,000 posts since they had secured more marks than the cut-off they be considered for recruitment for general posts rather than reserved.

This discrepancy was one of the reasons senior OBC leader Swami Prasad Maurya had cited recently while quitting the Yogi Cabinet and joining the SP. Many Kurmis here believe the 69,000 issue wasdeep “scam,” which happened to come to surface.

In Hasnapur, some farmers are beating the chill by roasting potatoes in an open wood fire. “This is what I managed to save from the cows and bulls,” jokes one of them. Vivek Kumar, part of the group, criticises the BJP for inflation, price of diesel and stray cattle. “I am unable to grow corn due to the Nilgai. The BJP takes votes through Hindu-Muslim. But the financial cost is too much to bear,” says Mr. Kumar, who feels Mr. Akhilesh Yadav is a better choice to run the State.

Formidable coalition

While in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Yadav has strung up a formidable caste coalition of backward caste parties, including the Apna Dal(Kameravadi), which enjoys support among the Kurmis, in central Uttar Pradesh, much depends on his own appeal as well as the popularity of his candidates.

If the SP is to oust the BJP in the overall game, it will have to retake districts such as Hardoi, where the BJP’s non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalit matrix appears daunting in the absence of a local ally. In 2017, the BJP won seven out of eight seats here.

The only SP winner Nitin Agarwal, too, later defected to the BJP. In 2012, when the SP had won a majority, it won six seats while the BSP won the other two in Hardoi.

In another part of Mallawan, which is known for weaving gamchas and watermelon cultivation, a group of men is engaged in a game of cards outside a road-side kiosk. They hold back their opinion on the election.

Raghubir Singh, however, speaks out. He has been unemployed since 2020 after his contractual job in the Homeopathy department was not renewed. He is in a mood to punish the BJP. But who is the alternative? “It could be anyone. All three parties have fielded Kurmi candidates,” says Mr. Raghubir Singh, providing us a glimpse of the complicated caste-economic calculations that go in behind the election in the country’s politically most significant State.


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Printable version | Jun 20, 2022 8:40:46 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-assembly/in-ups-hardoi-kurmis-split-on-ration-versus-quota/article38389843.ece