As residents in Gahmar, the “village of jawans” in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district, gear up to vote in the last phase of the Lok Sabha election on May 19, the political discussions this time around are one-sided.
Local residents claim that every house in Gahmar, with a population of more than one lakh, has one person who has either served or is presently serving in the armed forces.
And the majority of discussion in Gahmar this year has revolved around national security, the valour of Indian armed forces and what it takes to be a soldier.
“Issues such as surgical strike, nationalism, new India and national security have blurred the caste lines and it appears that everybody is charged up to vote for India,” said Surendra Singh, a social activist.
“Gahmar is a village of army men. We keep nationalism above all things,” he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its election campaign has focussed on the air strikes the Indian Air Force conducted in Pakistani territory on February 26 after the killing of 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Jammu and Kashmir 12 days prior.
Senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party president Amit Shah, have talked about the September 2016 surgical strikes across the Line of Control and February air strikes. They have pointed out that these actions under the BJP-led government are a marked departure from the policy followed by previous dispensations in dealing with Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
Singh, however, said that it was not so in the past.
“Like every other village, we were divided on political lines before Indian forces conducted the surgical strike and then the air force stormed into Balakot destroying terror camps,” Singh said.
“Today the general refrain is that the country is safe in the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he has successfully strengthened the security of the nation and elevated India’s position across the world,” added Singh.
The “nationalistic mood” hasn’t stop politicians from all hues from dropping in here for campaigning. For the ruling BJP, Union minister Manoj Sinha is in the fray while Afzal Ansari is the candidate for the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance.
Both leaders have visited the village and sought the support of the locals, who comprise 40% Thakurs, 20% Brahmins, 10% Dalits, 5% Muslims and 25% Other Backward Class including Bind, Rajbhar and other castes.
“Politicians come to the village to seek votes. Locals listen to them and usually don’t respond,” a local reveals the strategy.
“The caste lines seem to have blurred and everybody is concerned about nation these days. Locals are listening to all politicians but who they will vote seems clear,” local trader Raj Chaurasia said.
“We will support the political party which gave free hands to the army,” Ram Bharat Bind, another trader, said.
He, however, insists, some people will go with the alliance.
“Many locals don’t support the BJP but they don’t speak their mind because the majority is talking about them,” said Durga Chaurasia, husband of village head Meera.
Another factor which could decide the voting pattern of the locals is development.
“Ghazipur has seen unmatched development in the last five years. Roads are being built and all railway stations have been renewed. Several other development projects have also been started in last five years,” said Rajesh Singh ‘Babua’ a farmer.
“Unemployment is a serious problem in the district. Stray cattle are troubling farmers. The government has not set up a single factory in the last five years. People will keep these issues in mind when they go to vote,” said Chaurasia while claiming that many young people are aware of the issues and will give their reply in the form of votes during polling.
Noted socialist Vijay Narayan Singh said Gahmar came into limelight in 1964 when the then member of Parliament Vishwanath Singh Gahmari raised the issues of poverty and backwardness in eastern UP.
“On his demands, the then government constituted Patel Commission which recommended conversion of the railway tracks from meter gauge to broad gauge and laying of a network of roads for development in the area. Much has changed since then but a lot is desired,” said Singh.
Interestingly, while residents want more development, they don’t want to their village to be included in the town area. And, the association with the armed forces is the reason.
“The state government’s plan to convert the village into a town faced opposition two decades back as locals take pride in the “village of jawan” status,” said Singh.
May 15, 2019 16:19 IST