5th Phase| Na Awaas, Na Vikaas: Phoolan Devi’s village in Jalaun wants Akhilesh-Rahul

Shri Babu  has forgotten the wounds of atrocities committed against Phoolan Devi but is unforgiving on the lack of development. 

| Updated: 16 May, 2024 5:35 pm IST

Shekhpur Gudha Purwa (Jalaun): Holding a framed photograph of his fearsome aunt (mausi) in this village of Nishads — a prominent OBC community of Uttar Pradesh that comprises boatmen, tailors, barbers, carpenters — Shri Babu  has forgotten the wounds of atrocities committed against Phoolan Devi but is unforgiving on the lack of development.

As Jalaon, that houses this village goes to polls in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections, Babu, an agricultural labourer, takes time to open up on his anger on stray cattle menace, a recurrent issue that Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav has been raking up in every election campaign since 2019 against the BJP.

“Villagers and farmers continue to face challenges due to cattle menace, lack of money, and food scarcity. There is only a minor reduction of crimes. Nothing has improved drastically,” he says.

Asked about May 20 elections, suggested that either Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh should form the government at Centre and UP both.

While Phoolan had fought her first and only election in 1996 from Mirzapur — a Lok Sabha constituency in Purvanchal (east UP) also dominated by Nishads & Kurmi Patels (both non Yadav OBCs), BJP in 2014 also wooed such communities by aligning with Apna Dal led by its party chief Anupriya Patel to wean them away from SP.

Nishads’ anger against BJP in Bundelkhand is huge this time.

Awheelchair-bound, Ranjan Babu, from the Nishad Community, is acerbic on joblessness and lack of opportunities beyond farming here.

“Most young men in our community are unemployed. Rahul Gandhi and Mulayam ji protected us from the Goons at least,” he says.

READ MORE : Constitution doesn’t stop giving tickets to family, I will give: Akhilesh Yadav

“Our cattle sheds remain empty, there are no housing or development initiatives”, the government has given us nothing, ‘Na koi Awaas, Na koi Vikaas’, he fumes, almost giving a one liner catch phrase.

Like others, he expresses his confidence in Rahul that he would eventually become Prime Minister, either in the current elections or in 2029.

Vidya Devi, a homemaker, states that a deserving candidate should win but ends up backing Akhilesh, emphasizing their community’s struggles to secure foodgrains under PDS or housing under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) scheme.

There are from Pal community as well who want to back Akhilesh.

“Why should we vote for the BJP? They haven’t delivered any substantial benefits to us”, Om Pal says.There are of course, a few, who express confidence in the BJP.

Rama Shri Prasad seeks a Kendriya Vidyalaya while lauding Yogi government’s efforts and image of Bulldozer baba, saying there has been good governance here.

“We have had crime control, and increased awareness about equality among all castes. No one can suppress individuals from lower communities now,” he says.

Many villagers also highlight the uneven distribution of benefits under government schemes.

While some have received financial aid and gas cylinders, others obtained houses under Awas Yojana but also blame corruption within the administration as the reason for underdevelopment.

Divya, an unlettered teenager, expresses her preference for Yogi Adityanath while saying that the Modi government would win and continue to bring more reforms and prosperity in their lives.

She trains guns at Rahul and Akhilesh, saying their promises were empty for 60 years.

Mamta, a homemaker, hesitates to express her preference openly but acknowledges that many in their community expect Modi’s big victory.

“We received regular free ration under the Gareeb Kalyan Yojana”, she quips.

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