MAINPURI: The only thing that does not scream ‘Netaji’ in his bastion of Mainpuri seems to be nature. Apart from that, women cradling half-naked kids in huts, doctors, lawyers, daily wage labourers, students and small merchants across the length and breadth of the constituency are firmly behind Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav for the ongoing elections.
As one enters the territory of the constituency, almost everything is named after Yadav. Not surprisingly, the constituency has a Yadav population of 35 per cent. “Our leader is no one apart from Netaji. He is not replaceable,” a 24-year-old nursing student Kamala Yadav proclaims clenching her fist as her friends nod in appreciation.
Not too far away from Mainpuri, the city-town of Kurawali also echoes the same sentiment. Sonu Yadav will be a first-time voter when the town goes to polls in the third phase of elections on April 23. “Our local MLA, who also incidentally is from the SP, does not do any work. Our hopes are pinned only on Netaji,” he says nonchalantly as he sips his tea in his shop.
Recently-harvested wheat fields with a solitary hut dominate the landscape as one travels into the rural interiors of the constituency. In Achalpur village — a small village of some 75 homes — around 35 kilometres from Kurawali, sits a middle-aged woman cradling her fourth child. The other three run around her as she feeds them one by one. Geeta Kumar is a mother of four and her husband passed away six months ago of typhoid.
A rare non-Yadav in Mainpuri, she blames the local MLA and parliamentarian for the lack of medical facilities in the area. However, she feels only Mulayam can change the face of the constituency. “Had there been proper medical care, my husband would have been alive. I am now surviving off the money I get as help from my brother... Tej Pratap Yadav has not done anything to improve our lives. Only a leader like Mulayam can bring an end to all our sorrows,” she says wiping the welling tears off her eyes. Her second-born immediately comes to console his mother and cries out ‘Netaji zindabad’ shyly.
The SP patriarch is up against Prem Singh Shakya of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the constituency. The saffron party has been trying for the past 50 years to wrest the seat from the SP but to no avail. A trip to Bhongaon, a town 23 kilometres away, brings in more bad news for the BJP.
“The local MLA is very bad. He is inaccessible and has done nothing to improve our lives. If anything he has just made it difficult. Netaji aayenge tabhi sudhrega humara jeevan (Our lives will only improve when Netaji wins from here),” 37-year-old Shivam Kumar says with a gleam in his eyes. His friend Bablu Yadav, who is eavesdropping while enjoying his beedi immediately seconds Kumar.
“Bhaiyya, aap kyu samay barbaad kar rahe hai. Mainpuri jab tak hai tab tak Netaji ke alawa aur koi nahi jeetega yaha se. (Why are you wasting your time with such conversations. Till the time Mainpuri exists, there can be no other winner from here except Mulayam),” he says as he lets out a puff of smoke.
Doctors in the constituency too are firmly behind the SP patriarch. Even before one questions them, pat comes their reply. “Sir, it is true there are problems but Netaji is the son of the soil and he is the only solution to all of them,” a doctor who did not wish to be identified said.
The only minor sense of Opposition to Netaji came from three of his colleagues. “Netaji has been here for at least three decades, what progress has one seen. Mainpuri elects him only because of one reason — the Yadav population,” she said not wanting to identify herself.
Fortifying the fortress
Despite him backing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term in Parliament, Mulayam seems to have set aside his decades-long differences with BSP supremo Mayawati. In a bid to strengthen his prospects and showcase Gathbandhan (alliance) unity, Netaji, in all likelihood, will share the stage with Mayawati at a rally in Mainpuri on Friday. Mulayam and Mayawati have been at loggerheads since the infamous guest house incident in 1995 where Mayawati was forced to lock herself in a room of a guest house fearing attack from SP men over alliance trouble between the two parties.