A Local Discourse on Election- Part II: Reflections from Milak Constituency, Rampur

 

By Sanjeev Kumar

Abhishek Anand

Neha Singh

Milak is a Scheduled Caste reserved constituency of Rampur District located at NH 24, Rampur- Bareilly Road. This constituency has 3.6 lakh voters amongst whom the Muslims constitute the maximum number of voters. There are voters from other castes such as Yadav, Rajput, Gangwar (Kurmi), koiri, saini and Jatav as well. If we take into account the vote share of different parties in the last Assembly Election 2012, the Congress-SP alliance (with their aggregate vote percentage then) could easily sweep the present election. However, the BJP city president of Milak constituency informed us that if Muslim voters are not divided this time, then the BJP will have to fight with SP and if they are divided then BJP will have to fight with BSP. Interestingly, this time, in this constituency, BJP has coined a catchy slogan “Hum nahi denge Jati ko aur tum nahi doge Hanthi ko”


Figure 1:  Main Market, Milak Constituency, Rampur District

It seems obvious that BJP, in a reserved constituency, is trying hard to play an anti-caste politics by politicizing the same in her favour. It was amply reflected from the attitude and arguments of the local BJP workers who were pretty sure of the higher caste support to the BJP. In addition, they argued that there is a possibility that if the lower caste does not vote along the caste line, then their vote for another caste would go in favour of BJP.

Milak Constituency (Scheduled Caste Reserved)

2012 Election

 

Candidates contesting in 2017 Election

Winner

Runner Up

Second Runner up

BJP

SP+ Congress

BSP

Vijay Singh (SP)

Total vote: 56798

ChandraPal Singh (INC)

Total Vote: 36635

Radhey Shyam Rahi(BSP)

Total Vote: 34964

Raj Bala

Vijay Singh

Radhey Shyam Rahi

 

At BJP Party Office

Party Runs the Chief Minister

The party workers, having done all preparations for the election, were sitting and enjoying peanuts. We introduced ourselves to them and started the conversation on the current situation of the constituency. We asked, “kya lag raha hai, is bar kaun Chief Minister banega?” The City President said that “auron me to mukhyamantri party chalate hain, hamare yahan to party mukhyamantri chalate hain…badi party hai kisi ko bhi mukhyamatri bana denge…apna kisi ka nirnay to hota nahi.” (In other parties, Chief Minister runs the party, in our case, party runs the chief minister… it’s a big party, anyone can become chief minister… we don’t have any say in the decision making.)

 

                                                  Figure 2: BJP Party Office, Milak Constituency, Rampur                Figure 3: Local News Paper, Rampur

 

Our next question was related to the invincible position of Azam Khan in Rampur. We wanted to know that despite Nepal Singh of BJP being an M.P. of Rampur and Azam Khan only being an MLA, why Azam Khan is considered a heavyweight? In response, he made an interesting statement “Azam Khan ke samne to Akhilesh aur Mulayam bhi apni kursi chhod dete hain to dusro ki kya baat kare… Azam khan ne Rampur Jile ko hijack kar liya hai” (In front of Azam Khan Akhilesh and Mulayam also vacate the chair and stand up, then what to talk about others…Azam Khan has hijacked Rampur District.) This very statement clearly conveys that Azam khan is an undisputed strongman in Rampur and not even the CM can control him.

Agar nahi Jitaye to mobile bhi charge karne Rampur Aaoge

On the question of SP-Congress alliance, and declared Chief Minster candidate, a party worker said that, “aji vo bolte hain ki kam bolta hai, agar kam bolta hai to gathbandhan kyun kiya, aur wo bhi us party se jo bilkul hi khatam hai. Aji ye to pura shadyantra tha unka pariwarik jhagdo ka, janata ka dimag divert karne ke liye (Dear, they say that they have done work, if they are so much sure about their work, then why did they form the alliance, and especially with the party which is totally dead. In fact, this whole conspiracy of family feud was intended to divert the public attention.)

Another Party worker said that “log SP ke candidate ko vote nahi denge, kyoki sab ko pata hai ki SP kuch kar nahi sakti. Yahan to Azam Khan ka chalta hai (People shall not vote the SP candidate because everyone knows that SP can’t do anything here. Here, only Azam Khan dominates.) We further probed by saying that he is just an MLA of one constituency i.e. Rampur and this is another constituency, Milak. On this, everyone started saying, “par mantri to pure rajya ke hain,…bhaiya Rampur ke vidhayak hain Azam khan wo wahi ka vikas karate hain aur kahin ka bhi nahi.  kitna bhi dhurandhar SP ka neta yahan se vidhayak ya Zila adhhyaksh ban jay, rahega unka naukar hi… Koi dusara neta yahan ek int nahi lagwa sakta. Rampur me 24 ghante light hai, aur yahan 6 ghante nahi rahti, puri picture nahi dekh sakte ek bar me. Pahle hi unhone kah rakha hai ki nahi jitaoge to mobile charge karne bhi Rampur aaoge. (But he is the minister for the entire state…Brother, Azam Khan is the MLA of Rampur and he does the development of Rampur only and not of other places. Even if an experienced candidate from SP becomes an MLA or District president, it doesn’t make a difference; he will remain his servant only…any other leader can’t even add a brick here. In Rampur you have 24 hours electricity and here it is not even for 6 hours in a day, you can’t even watch a full movie at one go. He has already declared that if you don’t let me win, then you will have to come to Rampur even to charge your mobile). They further added that there is no development in the last five years. There is no hospital, sports complex, no electricity, no road and no employment.

Dhram ki Rajniti BJP nahi Karti

The BJP worker’s argument regarding the politics of caste and religion was expectedly firm. One party worker said that “BJP jati aur dharm ki rajniti to karti hi nahi. Agar hum Bhagwan Ram ka nam le to sampradiykata aur vo Allah ka nam le to wo dharm ban jata hai…aaj delhi me baitha haji fatwah jari karta hai BSP ko support karne ke liye to ye dharm ki rajniti hai nahi” (BJP doesn’t do politics based on caste and religion. If we invoke lord Ram, then it becomes communalism and if they raise the name of Allah, then that is religion…today, a Haji sitting in Delhi issues a fatwah dictating the Muslims to support BSP, then isn’t it the politics of religion?) They further argued that BSP has given tickets to Muslims; therefore, they are doing communal politics. To avoid communal politics, BJP did not give ticket to Muslims. On the issue of demonetization, party workers said that because of this terrorism in Kashmir has been stopped and naxalism is curbed. There has not been any problem to the people.

Mobilising Strategy

BJP party workers informed that the party has already done all the preparations. They have approached every single voter through separate pamphlets in the name of every single voter. A Committee of 21 members (Named “Ek Booth, Ekkis Youth”) from the local areas has been formed to manage every single booth of the constituency. The list of every booth Committee is circulated among key party workers and office bearers. The pamphlets have been circulated among the voters and party workers so as to convince the voters of party agenda on regular basis. They have put forward a slogan for this constituency – “Hum nahi denge Jati ko Tum nahi doge Hanthi ko” (We will not vote for caste, you will not vote for Elephant)

  

                                          Figure 4: BJP's Pamphlet voter wise                                     Figure 5: List of Booth Level Party Workers

 

Also, the local workers explained the local issues and claimed that besides the upper caste Hindu voters, some of the OBCs are also in favour of BJP. Therefore, they are confident of  Rajbala winning the seat.

After winding up our conversation at BJP office, we headed towards Vikrampur and adjacent villages in order to undertand the people’s idea of election and democracy. On our way, we met 3-4 people, who were the auto-motor workers. They were from Saini, Rajput and Baniya castes. Our conversation with them revealed that they have made up their mind to vote for BJP without being bothered of which party is winning. They said that Modi ji has done too much work for the country and through demonetisation he had stopped the problem of terrorism and also helped stopping the flow of black money. It seemed that their idea of democracy and election revolved around the personality of Modi. However, one of them also said that there is a need of leaders to come to the people and ask them about their problems.

Video………………

At BSP Party office

After returning from the villages, we went to the BSP office. 10-12 people were sitting with the voter list and discussing. It seemed that they were busy in making caluclations and the election preparartion was still in process. They said “aaj baat nahi kar sakte election ki taiyari me sabhi lage hain, aaplog ana chahte hain to 2-3 din bad ajaye”. (Today, we can’t talk as everyone is busy with election preparations, if you want to talk, then come after 2-3 days.) Sensing that a conversation is not possible, we returned back.

Bikrampur Village

After leaving the BSP office, we went to Bikrampur village. This village and surronding villages have good number of dalit voters mostly from the Jatav caste. As we had to cross a Railway Gate to reach the village, we met some daily wage workers standing over there waiting for it to open. They informed us that entire Hindu community except dalits will vote for BJP. However, they also suggested that there is a good chance of Akhilesh for becoming Chief Minister. We found a clear division among the people on the basis of their caste but some people also echoed their concerns about development issues.

Voting based on caste preferences remains the common feature everywhere, which is applicable to this consitutecny as well. But after talking to the Dalit community at Vikrampur village, we felt that dalit voters are prone to floating voting behaviour. They do have their idea of democracy as Mayawati but they are also looking for parties who can bring changes in the lives of their village. Jataws of Bikrampur were unhappy with the existing SP government and SP MLA. One Jataw youth Harish said that “hamlog sabhi Jataw to Hanthi ko denge”(we all Jataw will vote for elephant-BSP). Suddenly a woman from the back said “kaun kisko dega, kisi ko nahi pata, kyo bata rahe ho kuch bhi, jisko jaha man banega de denge…ham kisi ke pet me thode hi na ghuse hai jo sab jan jayenge” (who will vote for whom, nobody knows, why are you telling anything, whatever one decides will vote accordingly…we can’t read other’s mind, so how could we claim to know everything)”. But within few minutes Harish said that “hum kattar Hindu hai, BJP ko hi vote karenge” (we are staunch Hindus, we will vote for BJP only).   

 

                      Figure 6: Bikrampur Village , Milak Constituency, Rampur                  Figure 7: Interaction with People at Bikrampur Village

Overall, it seemed that they were a bit homogenized on the basis of their caste affinity and because of their critique of the SP government. Another Jatav youth Dharmvir said that “SP se hum naraz hain, yahan ka vidhayak ne hamara Block ko 25 km dur kar diya. sadake aaj tak kabhi nahi bani, kisi ko koi rojgar nahi hai. Aur sabse badi samasya yah hai ki raste ka railway fatak jo lambe-lambe samay tak band rahta hai hai, jiske karan 2 logo ki maut bhi ho chuki hai. Humlogo ne bahut bar application diya ki yaha ek bridge bane lekin SP ka vidhayak kabhi hamari nahi sunta. ..Ho sakta hai humlog is bar vote hi na kare.” (We are angry with the SP, the sitting MLA has transferred our block to 25 km far away. Till date, the road has not been constructed, there is no employment. The biggest problems is the Railway crossing, which remains closed for hours, even due to the negligence 2 persons of this village have died. We have given applications many  a time to construct a over bridge, but the SP MLA never listens to our problems…may be, this time we will collectively boycott the election.)

 

The general impression we got is that the dalits from this village and also from the other villages (based on our conversation with the people at the railway crossing) do consider Mayawati as their leader, but the unhappiness with the SP government and the sitting SP MLA as well as Azam Khan is also widespread. Therefore, they are in a search of a better alternative that can bring basic development such as electricity, road and employment for the people. Here in the entire Rampur, the Azam Khan’s writ for both good and bad reasons is stronger than Akhilesh himself, whereas BSP’s vote bank is fixed. 

 Sanjeev Kumar, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, University of Delhi. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mob: 9718640333

 Abhishek Anand is a Research Scholar at Centre for South Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mob: 9013843881

 Neha Singh, Research Scholar, CSDE, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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