Vigorous discussions are a way of life at Lucknow’s Charbagh railway station and the Kanpur-bound Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) train is no exception.As the train pulled out of Lucknow, the debate continued along a single track: Uttar Pradesh politics and the assembly elections.
The train covers about 80 km each way, and is popular with travellers communting between Kanpur and Lucknow via Unnao.
At 4 pm one evening, the chatter began almost as soon as the train left the station.
Discussions hovered around the Yadav family feud, Uttar Pradesh’s likely new chief minister, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance, women politicians such asAparna Yadav, Dimple Yadav and Priyanka Gandhi, and of course, Mulayam Singh’s second son, Prateek Yadav’s bright blue Rs 5.25 crore Lamborghini.
Most of the passengers packed in a compartment spoke in support of Akhilesh Yadav. “Abki baar, Akhilesh sarkar”— said Sumit Kumar Pandey of Unnao, raising his voice over the din. Pursuing a BA degree from Lucknow University,Pandey described Yadav as “an agent of change”.
“My vote is for development, which I have seen under the SP regime. He made metro train a reality in UP,” Pandey said, pointing to the ‘Samajwadi Party laptop’ that he had been given, free of cost, by the chief minister. The laptop bore pictures of Akhilesh and Mulayam.
But many of his college friends travelling with him disagreed, saying the ruling SP didn’t do enough to create meaningful jobs for UP’s youth.
Mithlesh Dwivedi, a senior citizen seated beside Pandey, worried about the state of policing under the SP. “Development is good but lawlessness should be checked,” he said. He did, however, admit that Akhilesh Yadav could become the chief minister again.
In the next compartment, milkmen headed home after selling their produce at ‘khoya’ markets in Lucknow, were also discussing the elections. Many of them supported the SP on the basis of its development work and not just because they belonged to the same caste as Akhilesh Yadav.
“Can’t you see UP developing? It is only this government that made the 102 and 108 ambulance services available in rural pockets. I don’t think any other government has done so much for the state,” said Baijnath.
It would be SP-versus-BJP in the elections, he said, and the former would win at the end. The family feud in SP, Baijnath concluded, had made Akhilesh more popular with the voters.
Many passengers from Unnao, Lucknow and Kanpur criticised demonetisation and said the poor had to face much inconvenience due to the decision.
Jitendra Yadav, a government employee, slammed the note recall and said the decision would rob BJP of votes. “Initially, it seemed to everyone that demonetisation was a good move. People later found that only the common man had to suffer and the rich remained unaffected. We had to stand in long queues to withdraw our own hard-earned money. What kind of justice was this?”
As soon as he had finished, someone else disputed his claim. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move will contribute to the country’s economy. Free laptops and smart phones will not,” quipped Manju Sharma, a private sector employee.
The debate raged and disagreements prevailed as the MEMU train hurtled along towards its destination.