As the first phase of Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections concluded on Saturday, the voters looked more interested in “vikas” (development) with everything else taking a backseat.
Shouting slogans such as “Akhilesh bhaiya vikas ka pahiya (wheel), Dimple bhabhi vikas ki chaabi (key), “BJP ka sath, vikas ki baat” and “BASPA (BSP) aayegi, vikas layegi,” the supporters of all political parties started thronging polling booths early in the morning.
While the major concern of adults was development, the students of Jaula village in Budhana, Muzaffarnagar, were looked sceptical about any changes in the government. “If the incumbent Samajwadi Party does not come into power, we might lose our chances of passing state board exams as smoothly as we can with them in power,” said a class XIth student Shakti Singh, a first-time voter.
“If Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) comes to power, the low and order of the state will change and it won’t be so easy for us to take a little help from our classmates during exams as we do now,” said the 18-year-old.
Echoing Singh’s concerns, other residents of the village claimed that not even a single student from their village failed in the past five years. “Mayawati government used to fail our children in board exams no matter how hard they prepared for it. But since Akhilesh government came into power, not even a single student from our village has failed,” said Shabana, 40, mother of a 15-year-old Moh Zeeshan, who will appear in class 10 board exam next year.
“My two elder brothers easily cleared their board exams in last two years. And, when, I have my boards next year the government might change. I hope SP government comes to power again,” said Moh Riyaz, another student present at the poll booth. DNA visited some of the areas of two politically charged districts of western Uttar Pradesh — Muzaffarnagar and Shamli — to gauge electorate’s choices and their aspirations with the forthcoming government.
Despite of all challenges, Sheeba Khan, a physically-challenged woman, made sure that this time she casts her vote.“You have no right to complain of irregularities if you don’t vote. That’s why I came here to cast my vote,” said the 24-year-old who was accompanied by her brother to the polling booth in Kairana constituency of Shamli district. “I couldn’t exercise my right to vote last time due to my disability,” she said, adding she convinced her brother to take her to the polling booth in this Assembly elections.
Locals in Kairana, which was propelled to national spotlight after reports of exodus of Hindus from the area, looked divided over the issue. “There was no palayan (exodus) from our area. It was, in fact, BJP’s plan to divide Hindu-Muslim unity of Kairana and gain electoral benefit out of it,” said Sajida, 45. Several other locals, however, differed, saying some Hindu families had actually migrated from the area.
Barely two kilometres from Kairana is the refugee colony that houses 270 families who fled their homes following the riots in Muzaffarnagar in September 2013.
According to the inhabitants of the colony, more than 800 citizens of their colony were deprived of their right to vote despite having identity proofs. “We reached the polling booth at around 8am thinking that we would get free by afternoon. But when our turn came, we were informed that our names were not there on the voter list,” said Zaitoon Begum, 70.
On Saturday, in the first phase of the staggered seven-phase Assembly elections, polling took place in 73 of the state’s 403 constituencies.