In Bundelkhand, BJP banks on ration & shasan to ride out anti-incumbency | India News

In Bundelkhand, BJP banks on ration & shasan to ride out anti-incumbency | India News


JHANSI: Considered among the most backward regions of UP, Bundelkhand once found itself regularly in the news for water scarcity, migration and farmer deaths. Over the past few years, however, projects such as Har Ghar Nal, the upcoming Jhansi node in the defence corridor and the Bundelkhand Industrial Development Authority (BIDA) have helped improve the situation.
Bundelkhand has four LS seats — Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur and Banda. In 2019, BJP swept the region. This time, despite murmurs of anti-incumbency, the Modi factor still seems strong. The end of “mafia raj” in UP is being flagged as a big achievement of the party, which is also banking on “development”.
However, the SP-Congress alliance has emerged as a strong opponent that hopes to make a dent in the saffron fortress by cobbling together caste groups and tapping into issues such as jobs.
Modi still a factor
In Jhansi, where unemployment is a key issue, the contest is triangular: Sitting MP Anurag Sharma is again facing former Congress MP Pradeep Jain Aditya, while BSP has fielded Ravi Prakash Kushwaha. Sharma, who won in 2019 by a margin of over 3.65 lakh votes, has been pitching BIDA as a big achievement of the “double engine” govt for the region’s development and job generation. The Congress candidate has been accusing govt of not adequately compensating farmers for land acquisition.
Support for PM Modi is evident across the constituency. While Jain, who was the MP in 2009, is remembered for a lot of good work in the region, the Congress-SP alliance here doesn’t seem to have made the kind of impact the opposition would have hoped for.
Around 57% of voters are from backward communities comprising Yadavs, Kushwahas, Lodhis and Patels. Among SCs, who form 20-21% of the electorate, the Ahirwar community is the largest. There are about 1.5 lakh Brahmins.
In Lalitpur’s Talbehat, Nanhe Raja and his friends, all auto drivers, narrate stories of harassment under the SP govt and say they finally feel safe. However, Nand Kishore Kushwaha of Bijrotha village says he has taken several exams for a govt job, but there are far too many applicants. “We used to get cheap ration earlier too, so that’s not an issue. People want jobs. Agniveer is a sham and the youth are disappointed,” he said.
Anti-incumbency mood
Hamirpur is dominated by Thakurs, with Lodhis (OBC) forming another large bloc. Here, SP has fielded a Lodhi candidate, Ajendra Singh Rajput, while BJP has fielded two-time MP Pushpendra Singh Chandel. BSP has fielded a Brahmin, Nirdosh Kumar Dixit.
In Kaimaha village, Ram Milan Pathak, who owns a shop on the MP-UP border, counts law and order, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi and free ration as big poll issues. There’s anti-incumbency against the sitting MP, which is being blunted to an extent by Brand Modi. “There is widespread inflation and joblessness. People continue to migrate out,” Pathak said. Vinod, a tea stall owner in the same area, believes the alliance is benefiting from the support of Muslims and Yadavs, and could give BJP a tough fight. BSP’s Brahmin candidate is likely to split BJP’s votes, he believes.

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Battle of Patels
In Banda, dominated by Patels, OBCs form a major chunk. Thakurs and Banias account for 15% of voters. The contest here is interesting with both BJP and INDIA having fielded Kurmis. BJP has repeated R K Singh Patel, who was earlier with SP, and SP has fielded Shivshankar Singh Patel. BSP has put up a Brahmin, Mayank Dwivedi, and some believe the fight may be triangular.
A subject that resonates here is the unhappiness over candidate selection. Vipin Saxena, a Banda shopkeeper, says: “The alliance is strong; BSP is not in the fight. It is dividing Brahmin votes that would otherwise go to BJP.” In an auto parts shop, Deepmala is singlehandedly managing customers. For her, improved law and order is a huge plus. Jalaun is the only reserved seat in the region. Reserved seats, ironically, have traditionally been a weak point for BSP, with BJP registering a much better strike rate. Here, BJP has fielded Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma, SP has fielded Narayan Das Ahirwar.
Reality check
Although govt claims to have saturated Bundelkhand with the Har Ghar Nal scheme, locals say there are gaps in execution. In several localities, pipes haven’t been connected to houses. A ‘Jal Saheli’ team surveyed 26 villages where taps have been provided and found water supply remains a problem. BJP govt’s free ration scheme has done better though there are pockets where people sell 5kg of rice and purchase wheat.
At several places, ‘Samvidhan’ (Constitution) is a major issue among Dalits, with INDIA bloc having managed to drive home the point that if BJP returns to power, it will change the Constitution. For a section heavily dependent on reservation, the slogan of ‘Abki baar 400 paar’ is fuelling suspicion that a brute BJP majority will hurt their interests.





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