‘INDIA bloc strong, inter-party support trickling down from top’ | India News

‘INDIA bloc strong, inter-party support trickling down from top’ | India News

INDIA bloc candidate from Barabanki Lok Sabha constituency, Tanuj Punia, feels that Ram Temple is important for people, but survival comes first. In an interview with


, he discussed the problems faced by the people and the poll prospects of INDIA bloc. Excerpts:
You have been a chemical engineer and worked in the corporate sector before joining politics.How different are the two worlds? Don’t your friends pull you back?
Everything is diametrically opposite. In the corporate sector, when you start working, there is always accountability, and you get paid for what you do. In politics, you might never get paid for your work. The level of accountability lies with everybody and still some people may remain unhappy. My friends keep calling but our chats make me realise that my life is way more happening and socially impactful than many of them.
Before 2024, you contested four elections but did not taste victory. What keeps you motivated?
All these elections, I have been able to garner a few thousand votes which shows that there are people who have faith in me. Undeterred by the outcome, they have been with me. I may step back if I have stakes as an individual, but when you are the hope of others, you must keep going. In my constituency, 50,000-odd people have pinned their hopes on me.
What is the election mood in Barabanki? What dominates more – caste or issues?
Issues are dominating this time because people are tired of tall claims and false promises. Youth and farmers are particularly affected. About 85% of the voters in Barabanki are directly affected by inflation in agriculture. Even those in the city are affected in one way or the other. Most farmers are engaged in growing peppermint so its cultivation and processing into oil is not getting support. After the BJP formed govt, the price of peppermint oil has never crossed Rs 1,000. It was about Rs 2,000 under previous govts. Education and employment are other key issues as many people head to Lucknow for it. Paper leaks have also made the life of youths difficult. The issue is resonating among jobseekers, especially SC and OBC candidates, who have smaller land holdings.
Caste is a dominant factor in Indian elections. What is your formula?
I did take some time to accept the reality of caste, but the fact is that Congress believes in taking people from all walks of life along. Estimates show that there are 27% SCs and an equal proportion of OBCs. A connection with Dalit sub caste Pasi and OBC offshoot Kurmis is believed to be crucial for candidates here. Muslims also form a good chunk on the seat. We have been able to connect with all groups well due to combined efforts.
How much leverage are you getting from alliance partner Samajwadi Party compared to the experience in 2017?
The alliance is stronger and well taken this time. That’s mainly because we got enough time to make it work. Cooperation has trickled down from the top to the booth level. The other day, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav convened a rally which gave the final push to momentum built by SP leaders in the district, including Arvind Singh Gope and Rakesh Verma.
Why did you come up with a constituency-centric manifesto in addition to the Nyay Patra?
India is extremely diverse, and each constituency has specific needs. As an aspiring public representative, it is important for me to understand the local needs and make promises that affect people’s lives. This seat needs several postgraduate colleges, better rail connectivity, peppermint oil extraction units, and link roads. That is what I have promised.
You are a few kilometers away from Ayodhya. How big a factor is Ram temple in Barabanki?
The importance of Ram temple in the life of people here is high, both in social and economic context. However, people here say that ‘Ram ka naam tab hi le payege jab kaam hoga, aur pet mein khana’. This shows that survival comes before religion.

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