Walls, electricity poles, lampposts bear a familiar look as one travels around in Lucknow, signalling the time for the cycle, the elephant, the lotus and the hand to come in the same battleground to win over the people and win the seat of power that decides the future of Uttar Pradesh for the next five years. These are enough to constantly remind people that this crucial state is at the crossroads of yet another assembly election.
WATCH VIDEO | Assembly Elections 2017: How Has UP Voted In The Past Explained
After the Samajwadi Party family feud, Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi forged an alliance to take on the BJP and the BSP. On the ground, people seem to be giving the alliance a chance, but there are others who think the tag of a ‘gunda’ party will continue to stick with the SP.
“For me, there’s one face above everything, the party, the politics and that is of Akhilesh Yadav. The way he works, the work he does, and the way he interacts with people is the best. I personally really like him,” says Anurag Singh, an employee at Tata Motors.
Kashif, a general store owner and a strong supporter of the party, believes Akhilesh has contributed immensely to the development of the state. “Akhilesh was able to gather votes on his youth appeal and has lived up to the expectations. He worked not just for the youth but for everyone,” he said.
WATCH VIDEO | Assembly Polls 2017: UP CM Akhilesh Yadav Holds Rally In Riot-Hit Muzaffarnagar
Ever since Akhilesh Yadav took charge of the Samajwadi Party, many believed the young CM finally managed to come out of the shadows of his father Mulayam Singh. But the SP’s past poor record in maintaining law and order in the state may just hit Akhilesh’s prospects in the elections.
“Samajwadi Party toh gunda sarkar thi, hai aur rahegi (SP was, is, and will always remain a party of goons),” said Pawan Kumar Pathak, who works as a security guard, enlisted with SIS Security.
Elvina, a school teacher, is more concerned about safety in the city and believes the alliance will aid in law and order situation of the state. “Akhilesh has definitely worked for us but his party sided with goons, there was lack of safety, especially for women. Now that they (SP, Congress) are together, SP might learn to control law and order better,” she said.
Anurag, however, sounds his dissatisfaction with the alliance, emphasising especially on the dwindling popularity of the Congress party. “Akhilesh said he could get more than 300 seats in the elections. Why then does he need the Congress? When the public is with you, you don’t need another party – that too one that is losing its base. SP is better off without the congress,” he said.
The tarnished image of the Congress due its involvement in multiple scams may also not lend a healthy image to SP’s alliance with it. “As a voter I prefer Samajwadi Party over BJP,” Aanchal says. “But the alliance with Congress makes me want to think twice. Given that the Congress has been known for looting, I’m not sure if the alliance is a smart choice.”
The bitter public fight between the father and the son over control of the party is still fresh in public memory with many believing the controversy was staged. “The fight is for show purpose. There was a little mess inside the house, but that’s all,” said Vikas Yadav, who’s been running a paan shop for the past 22 years. Post-graduate student Aanchal is also wary of the whole feud. “The split could very well be a political jumla. Thanks to the so called split, both Akhilesh and his father were all over the news thereby overshadowing every other relevant information about other parties,” she said.
The Samajwadi Party has always flaunted its Muslim-Yadav combination of winning elections. But many voters see this as a case of appeasement. Pawan alleged his village Morena was left out because it was an upper caste, Brahmin dominated village. “I live in a Brahmin village, no other caste lives there. We brought electricity to the village on our own, no one cared about our development. However, the Muslim village next to ours got everything – it was fully developed. Why?” he asked.
“Even if we vote for SP, it won’t be counted. They will assume that as Brahmins we will vote for BJP. So they don’t even come to us,” he added, further saying that BJP has always helped the village.
With the bigger areas of the cities bustling with electioneering, the slums have an entirely different story to tell. It had recently rained in the city and one has to wade through the sticky, wet mud to enter Valmiki Basti. “Look at that building,” Rajesh, resident for 26 years, points to a medium height multi-storey residential complex opposite the slum and says, “Look at that and look at us. We can’t even get tiles on these paths to walk. What do we care what party comes to power? No one will care about us.”
Valmiki basti lies in the middle of the fairly developed Vikas Nagar. Not only does the area boast of private residential homes, but also multi-storey residential complexes. The previous elections in 2007 which had brought Mayawati to power was when an MLA visited the basti. No leader, no campaigner has laid an eye on them since then. They were promised bare necessities and most importantly, tiles to make the narrow paths inside their slum more walk-able.
“Humein bas nalka, paani, kharanja chahiye. Yeh zarurat poori kare jo bhi aaye, baaki sab theek hai (We just want a tap, some water from it, and tiles on this path. We’ll make do with the rest),” said Shanti Devi.