Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls | BJP candidates relying on brand Modi-Yogi

Discontent against local leaders for lack of amenities is off set by communal rhetoric

Updated - February 08, 2022 09:12 pm IST

Published - February 08, 2022 05:47 am IST - Mathura

Daily wage workers wait for work at labour chowk in Mathura

Daily wage workers wait for work at labour chowk in Mathura

As the BJP’s glittering, repurposed election drives into the labour chowk of Mathura, daily wage workers surround it with the hope that the party would recruit them for electioneering at ₹500 per person. But all they get is a BJP booklet titled “ Mero Brij ”.

Ya ko kya karoon? ₹500 de do, saath le chalo din bhar ko ( What can I do with this? Pay me ₹500 andtake me along for electioneering),” says a disappointed Chandan Singh from a village in Goverdhan constituency, who has been standing at the cross-roads since early morning waiting for work. There are hundreds like him, most of them have e-Shram cards, but no work. “We paid ₹50 each to get them [e-Shram card] made with the hope that ₹2,000 will come into our account but we haven’t received the installment,” alleged another worker Fateh Singh.

A kilometre further, in the Krishna Janmaboomi area, a song in the Braj dialect is playing from a repurposed auto: “ Ye vikas ka diwanon hai/ Ayodhya ke baad Mathura ka number aaono hai . (He is crazy about development/ the turn of the Mathura temple will come after Ayodhya),” goes the song.

The lyrics, while referring to sitting BJP MLA and Minister for Power Shrikant Sharma, actually succinctly describe the BJP’s manifesto and its campaign focus in the Braj region straddling the Yamuna, which is scheduled to vote on February 10.

Facing anti-incumbency here, BJP candidates are chanting the “Modi-Yogi” mantra to survive for another term.

There is palpable anger against Mr. Sharma. In the roadside conversations, he is described as an inaccessible MLA, with the wealth of his close family having swelled manifold in the last five years. People also talk of a large number of FIRs lodged in the region for electricity theft during his tenure.

As Mathura has become a Nagar Nigam, the commercial taxes levied on shopkeepers has almost doubled. This has created extra pressure during the pandemic when business has been poor. “We may be better dressed but we are struggling as much as these daily wagers,” says Darshan Kumar, a grocery store owner.

In neighbouring Chhata constituency, Minister Chaudhary Lakshmi Narayan Singh is charged with ignoring local issues and the people, while helping his nephew siphon foodgrain meant for the public distribution system. “I went to seek his help in a case where I felt my daughter was wronged by her in-laws but he started finding faults with us,” says Kishan Singh from Chuma village.

But the brand Modi-Yogi soon takes over conversations which turns to the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and the abrogation of Article 370.

Hinduon ki naak unchi kar dayi (They have restored the prestige of Hindus),” says Net Ram, an another daily wager, who till a few minutes before was criticising the government for inflation and the meagre PDS which doesn’t meet the needs of the poor. Even among the daily wagers, there is a reflection of caste identity. “Look at the larger picture, “ urges Nandan Pal, who runs a small confectionary shop. “Those who stole electricity during the previous governments are being punished. They used it as a symbol of pride that could take on the government,” he points out.

Observers, however, said the polarisation card played by the BJP is not finding traction. Recently, when an aide of Mr Chaudhary was shot dead, CM Adityanath, at an election meeting, described it as the handiwork of Mewati criminals (a euphemism for Muslims from the Harayana’s Mewat region.) However, police investigation has so far revealed the murder was related to money transaction and the alleged killer was a non-Muslim. “How would Yogiji know? Local officials and leaders must have misguided him,” defends Kishan Singh, who is unhappy with his MLA.

“The low percentage of the population of Muslims in Mathura ensures that it could not be polarised and real issues like pollution of Yamuna despite massive investment by the State government will shine through,” says advocate Madhuvant Chaturvedi, convenor of Qaumi Ekta Manch, a leftist organisation that is supporting the Congress in the Mathura seat and the SP-RLD alliance in the six rural seats of the district where the farmer agitation is finding traction.

In Hatholi village of Baldev (reserved) constituency, situated between the broad gauge line and a highway, the locals are enraged about the hard water in their village. “We have to buy water from the tanker,” said Ter Singh Baghel.

Stuck on the fringes of so-called development, the villagers are not amused. “See, they (those in power) have built the Yamuna Expressway but not even one single underpass has been cleared so that we and our animals don’t have to walk long distances to go to our fields.”

The village is not far from Deen Dayal Dham and the villagers said their identity was because of RSS ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhayay’s birth place. “The issue has been raised for decades but even the BJP MLA Pooran Prakash proved to be of no help,” said Dungar Singh. But that doesn’t seem to matter. “The vote will go to the BJP,” said Pooran Chand, as their leader SPS Baghel, BJP’s Agra MP is contesting against Akhilesh Yadav. And, “only Modi and Yogi know what religion is. Devta aadmi hain ,” underlined Mr Chand.

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