“Rampur, Moradabad, Rampuurr..!” blared the conductor of a blood-red Uttar Pradesh state Transport Corporation bus as it left the Bijnor bus station. On the road, the driver, a lanky middle-aged jat, steered with his left hand while resting his right on the door. To sound the horn, he reached a wire near the window and pressed it.
“There is no space but they have distributed rickshaws,” said Chandara Pal, the driver, pointing to the green red e-rickshaws distributed to rickshaw pullers by the SP government. The bus crawls for another 20 minutes before getting on to State Highway 12. Pal’s right hand returns to the wheel and his feet on the accelerator.
It was late afternoon and most of the passengers were headed home for the weekend. They seemed to be relaxing, but were happy to speak of the upcoming election. What is the mood this time? Or as they ask in UP, which way is the wind blowing?
“BJP will win from here, people here are BJP supporters. We will also give them a chance. I voted for Modi ji in 2014 and see how he has made a name of India in the whole world,” said Lakhshya Tyagi ,23, an engineering graduate who boarded from Bijnor, where he works with a private company, en route to Moradabad where his family lives.
“Modi ji will not come here to become the CM of UP, the CM should be someone from the state,” said Moradabad businessman Rehbar Ali,46. Asked about his choice of CM, Ali said, “Akhilesh Yadav...he is young and works for every one.A secular person should be the CM and Akhilesh is the most suitable candidate.”
Some in the bus brought up “vikas (progress)” and “secularism” while talking about the elections, while others spoke of “samaj” (community) and “annyay (injustice).”
“People from Yadav or Muslim community are heard in SP. I will vote for BJP to save my dharm,”said Durgesh Rajput, a college student in the back seat. “I am not against Akhilesh Yadav, he is good person but I don’t like SP,” he added.
More people joined in as the bus sped along towards Rampur. “All these roads were constructed by Akhilesh government. The development done by the party is visible on ground. He deserves a second chance,” said Sarvesh Singh, a garment trader. At six in the evening half of the passengers disembarked, as the bus reached Moradabad. The driver then turned towards Rampur, his horn blaring once more.
In Rampur, 30 kilometers from Moradbad, all talk— in support and opposition— was of Azam Khan.
“Azam Khan is good for us. Rampur gets 24 hour electricity because of him and we will elect him again,” said Fahim Khan, who owns a small tea shop outside Rampur bus stop. People also spoke of Abdullah, Azam’s son, who is contesting election from Suar, but weren’t sure of his victory.
The bus emptied in Rampur and the correspondent boarded another bus to Bareilly.
It was seven in the evening, passengers sat with their heads low braced against the cold wind. The conductor, Mohammad Umar, sat on the engine, beside driver Somapal Singh. They were close friends from same village in Bareilly, but happened to be on opposite sides of the election spectrum.
“I will vote for BJP,” said Sompal. “I have always voted for the party”. Umar backed Akhilesh Yadav and SP. “I am impressed by the work Akhilesh has done and will vote for him,” he said.