About 60 kilometres before this western UP town, a roadside neon sign flashes ‘NH-91’ in fading light.
The Delhi-Kanpur highway owes its high recall value to the July 29 shocker last year when a mother and her 14-year-old daughter travelling from Noida to Shahjahanpur were pulled out of their car and gang-raped under Kotwali Dehat police station limits.
Now, three ‘UP 100’ vehicles, parked within 10 km of each other with their flashers announcing police presence on the dark highway, are proof of UP government’s anxiousness to improve its stock on the law and order front ahead of the first round polling on February 11.
Nearly 100 days after the incident on the highway, notorious for crime, the Akhilesh Yadav government attempted last minute damage control by rolling out ‘UP 100’ project – a centralised emergency response system that promises police response within 20 minutes of call in rural areas and 15 minutes in urban.
“There are three ‘UP 100’ vehicles already on the highway. As night wears on, several more would be there and it isn’t easy for anyone to do any mischief, for the system is now designed to respond quickly,” says sub inspector Devender Kumar, in-charge from inside a ‘UP 100’ vehicle.
The BJP has coined a new slogan to hit out at the ‘UP 100’ scheme: “100 dabane pe aati hai, do sau le ke jaati hai (It comes on dialling 100 and goes back taking 200.”
Besides promising an ‘anti-romeo squad’ along with three separate battalions and three women police stations in each district, the cleverly coined slogan targets SP not just over law and order but on corruption too—issues that Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched upon at his Meerut and Aligarh rallies.
The NCRB data for 2015 also showed that the highest number of gangrape cases were reported from Rampur, Bijnor, Amroha, Sambhal and Moradabad followed by Bulandshahr, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, Baghpat and Hapur.
BSP chief Mayawati, aware of the popular perception that crime is under control when she is at the helm, has been repeatedly using this plank to woo voters.
“That’s sheer politics,” says Sarla Yadav the women wing chief of SP’s Bulandshahr unit. “As a woman, I feel that we all have to make an effort to inculcate good values among our children. It’s shameful that these parties are trying to cash in on someone’s pain. UP 100 is proof of our focus on women safety.”
Mohammad Faisal, a hotel manager in Bulandshahr, stresses that women’s security is not an issue at all for these parties. “Just see how many women candidates these parties have fielded,” he says.
A report released by Association for Democratic Reforms has also indicted all the parties for fielding tainted candidates in western UP.
The BJP has fielded the most women – 42 of the total 371 candidates declared so far. But it has the highest number of candidates with shady background for the first phase, 29, and is followed by 28 of BSP which has fielded just 16 women for the hustings.
The SP, contesting 51 of the 73 seats in the first phase, has put up 15 candidates with cases against them though it has fielded 36 women in the 298 constituencies it is contesting. Its alliance partner Congress, contesting 24 seats in the Feb 11 polls, has put up 6 dubious candidates and has an equal number of women on the 105 seats it is contesting across UP. About 19 out of 57 candidates contesting on RLD ticket have a shady past.