The cool breeze through lush green fields on languid afternoons was in contrast to rising political temperatures in the run-up to an unprecedented turnout in Mant on Tuesday. The choice before the voters was between RLD’s Chandragupta, Jayant Chaudhary and Mathura’s Chanakya, Shyam Sunder Sharma of the Trinamool Congress.
Naujheel, the venue of an RLD meeting addressed last Saturday by Jayant and his father Ajit Singh was 5 km from Tante gaon, where Sharma set up a show of strength.
The distance was no hindrance to perilously close encounters between their supporters. The frenzy — freely mouthed expletives, threats of settling scores and getting even — led to skirmishes as rivals atop buses and trolleys crossed each other. Sporadic brickbats drew out BSF contingents to restore calm.
Calm it was — but tenuous. That it lasted through the polling day barring sporadic verbal duels was a miracle.
“With what margin will Jayant win?” we asked. “What makes you that sure of his victory? Woh haar bhi saktey hain,” interjected a Brahmin voter, supported aggressively by others in the marketplace.
Now, such claims were blasphemous for the aggressive Jat electorate numbering a good 100,000 in the constituency represented six times by Sharma. They want Jayant victorious, they want him installed as UP’s chief minister.
Previously elected as an Independent, Sharma grabbed the Trinamool banner primarily to neutralise damage by a dummy candidate who was his namesake. What made the contest whisker-close, or so it seemed by the Jats’ aggression, was that other communities had turned to him (Sharma) on a rebound.
“RLD’s hand-pumped water will drown Sharma,” declared a clutch of Jat youth, waving sticks at the father-son duo’s boisterous meeting.
But Jayant’s task seemed uphill, his 2009 victory in the Lok Sabha polls becoming a liability because of what locals call his “inaccessibility” as an MP.
“It depends on caste composition. Sharma is going strong in about 18 villages, where ‘others’ outnumber Jats,” said Sultan Singh, who found Jayant elusive when he approached him for minor help.
Kanaiyalal (Baghel), Sohan lal (Bania) Niranjan Lal (Brahmin) at Tante were unanimous that Sharma would win. They mocked at the RLD candidate’s projection as CM when he was on slippery turf in the constituency.
At Naujheel, Bunny Singh forecast “a thumping win” for Jayant. But Ramesh Chandra Varshney wagered on his defeat: “Let’s have a bet of R1 lakh.”
To show the Chaudharys weren’t invincible, old-timers recalled Jayant’s grandmother Gayatree and aunt Gyanwati’s defeats in Mathura in the 1984 and 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
Jayant’s wife Charu led his assembly campaign in Mant, even as her husband shouldered the larger responsibility of electioneering for the alliance.
Safe would it be to say that the race might be a photo finish for Charan Singh’s photogenic grandson. The buzz at the end of polling was the BSP transferred some of its votes to Sharma to keep Jayant out.
The RLD leader’s penchant for statistics is reminiscent of his legendary grandpa. Will numbers add up for him on the counting day?