Anti-BJP mood more pronounced now

JAUNPUR, FEB. 15. Corruption is everywhere. Certainly in Uttar Pradesh it has become a fact of life, and no one really discusses corruption as an election issue. The State's Treasury may be empty - it is routine for wages of Government employees to be paid a month or two behind time - but there seems to be no dearth of money for the huge 100-plus Council of Ministers of the Rajnath Singh Government.

At the district court in Jaunpur, the discussion turns round to the ongoing strike and ``dharna'' by the inter-college teachers. Why are they protesting? It seems because they have not been paid their salaries for several months. They are also protesting against what they called ``wrong appointments''.

A lawyer at the courts had this to say: ``You see corruption was always there, but matters have come to such a pass that now often `patwaris' (revenue record keepers) have to bribe those in the accounts office to get their own salaries''. It was not immediately clear how this new system worked, so the articulate lawyer offered to explain. ``The Treasury is empty, so we are told. When these `patwaris' come to collect their salaries, they are often told there is no money, come again later. The few days often stretch into a few months. The signals are unmistakable. He offers a small bribe to the accounts office and manages to get his salary''.

The man has lived all his life in Jaunpur. He admitted that corruption was no stranger to previous Governments. ``But the present Government has broken all records. Surely, never before were Government servants forced to offer bribes to get not any special favour, not a posting or a transfer of choice, but their own salaries''.

In the heated discussion that follows among several lawyers, there are certainly a few who signal their preference for the Bharatiya Janata Party. But there is none to contest what has been said about corruption. ``Congress paisa khati thi, kaam bhi karti thi, ab paisa bhi khate hain, kaam bhi nahin karte (The Congress took money and did the needful, now they take the money and do nothing).''

But that does not come as a surprise in Jaunpur. Of the 10 Assembly segments in the district, the Samajwadi Party won four in 1996 and the Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP bagged three each. The anti-BJP mood is just a bit more pronounced now.

There are several factors which have added to the confusion that prevails in a district, where political allegiance was divided three ways. The BSP MLA from Barsathi had defected to the ruling party in Lucknow, another one had been expelled and is now contesting the elections supported by the BJP, one SP MLA left the party to join the Janata Dal(United) which is in the fray supported by the BJP.

The presence of the Apna Dal complicates matters further as it is expected to hurt the BSP and the BJP votes by walking away with a large chunk of the Kurmi `Patel' votes. It is expected to hurt the BJP more. And some of the upper caste BSP candidates could cut into the BJP's Brahmin-Thakur-Baniya kitty.

``The rise of the BSP has brought about a social revolution here. The lives of the poorest people may not have improved, but certainly the BSP's political rise has led to confidence-building among the lower castes, emboldening them to cast their votes fearlessly. The ``dab daba'' (dominance) by the upper castes has been dented,'' says a district official.

The mood of the people favours change, it could help the SP gain ground. But there is also the feeling that fate has ordained that on polling day they should vote not for the preferred candidate or party, but the man who belongs to our own ``biradiri'' (community or caste). Each man for his own caste, and let the best caste arithmetic win.

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