An activist, a former bureaucrat, a legislator who had helped create hundreds of jobs. As a very different Uttar Pradesh went to the polls, a new-age set of leaders emerged winners.
I had seen the signs of change through my journey across the state, from Lucknow to Robertsganj. I saw young men desperate for their share of the brand new world they had glimpsed through the Internet, TV and their cellphones.
When they got their chance, they voted for development; caste and creed seemed to fade into the background.
Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party was swept aside in many areas where she had expected to win.
“The voters were disillusioned with the Mayawati’s brute social engineering,” Manoj Dixit, a political analyst and professor at Lucknow University said on Sunday. “Rather than working for development, she remained focussed on caste. This proved counterproductive.”
In Bundelkhand, drought-hit farmers had told me as I travelled ahead of the polls that they had no time for any BSP rallies.
After half a decade of near-drought conditions, the rain gods had smiled on them and they had a bumper crop.
“Now God has come to our rescue, why should we care about our state leaders,” farmer Ramakant Patel (43) had said.
Sure enough, Maya’s party, which swept the Assembly polls in May 2007 (it has 15 of the 21 Assembly seats in the region), won only one of the four Parliamentary seats here.
The Congress, which had no seats in the region, won the most important one: Jhansi. The victory was due to both the party and the candidate. Pradeep Jain had been a drought activist and the only MLA in the arid region to protest against the government's apathy.
In the land of Ram, the Awadh region, Hindutva lost ground too.
Farmers here didn’t seem to have the time to discuss the promised temple in Ayodhya. Instead, they wanted help learning how to leverage technology and the Internet to better their yields.
The got some help from P.L. Puniya, a former bureaucrat who worked relentlessly for the cause of the farmers.
When the votes were counted on Saturday, the tally favoured neither the BJP, SP nor BSP. The Congress candidate, Puniya, had won by over 1 lakh votes.
It was the same in Faizabad, where many young men had chosen a brisk dairy business over the saffron agenda.
“The youngsters don’t have time for our meetings any more,” Bajrang Dal member Samarjeet Singh had told me. “They are all busy selling milk to the new collection centres set up by the National Dairy Development Board on the initiative of Sonia Gandhi.”
Still, the fight was largely considered to be between the BJP, SP and BSP.
The Congress candidate was not even considered to be in the race. On Saturday, the Congress's Nirmal Khatri won by over 50,000 votes.
(With inputs from Pankaj Jaiswal & Rajesh K. Singh)