Maya's opposition to Rae Barelli rail factory hands Sonia edge
Sonia proposed Mayawati disposed. And, the BSP chief's opposition to Rs 1,685-crore rail coach factory in the Congress President's Rae Barelli constituency may now drive Gandhi closer to victory.india Updated: Apr 24, 2009 13:34 IST
Sonia proposed Mayawati disposed. And, the BSP chief's opposition to Rs 1,685-crore rail coach factory in the Congress President's Rae Barelli constituency may now drive Gandhi closer to victory.
The foundation stone for the factory was laid way back on February 13, 2007 and the state government led by Mayawati had allotted land on May 19, 2008 when she was a part of the Congress-led UPA coalition at the Centre.
However, after the alliance between the two parties collapsed at the Centre, the Uttar Pradesh government cancelled the land allotment on October 12 last year, triggering wide-spread protest by people.
Later, Mayawati buckled under public pressure and agreed to give back the land, projecting in this process an image of being anti-development for the sake of political gains and handing an edge to the Congress chief in the build-up to the polls on April 30.
Gandhi is facing BSP nominee R S Kushwaha and BJP's R B Singh, though 13 others are also trying their luck from here.
"The issue of the rail coach factory will get more votes for Gandhi. There is no strong candidate from the opposition too," Samarjit Yadav, a Samajwadi Party supporter, said here.
An 18-year-old first time voter from Aiyar, Ramesh, sums up the mood of young people. "The youth will vote for those who get the factory started here."
Some are even overtly critical of the BSP government's opposition to the project.
Chhedilal Ravidas at Balhemu, whose one bigha land had gone for the factory, rubbished the UP government's claims that farmers were against the project.
"We wanted the factory here. We still want it. It was a lie that we opposed it," he said.
"We have been given monetary compensation for the land taken from us. But it would solve my problem if my son could get a job in the factory as well. Even otherwise we are not going to oppose it," Ravidas said.
Villagers of Balhemu held demonstrations and blocked roads shouting anti-state government slogans after the land allotment was cancelled. The sentiment is understandable as there is no industry in a periphery of 25 km from Balhemu.
"I do not foresee any division of the SC votes, at least in Balmehu, and more so after the factory controversy," said Dayaram Ravidas who expressed confidence of Sonia's victory.
And even the Congress knows it and is trying to cash in on the issue. Campaigning for her mother Sonia at Sareli village here yesterday, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, "The Rail coach factory will give employment to 10,000 people. Remember how much Sonia ji struggled when the state government didn't give land for the factory."
On another occasion, she was even more vocal. "Soniaji had said she would go to jail if required (to get the factory started). Only after that the factory was started. And it will start functioning soon," she added.
Senior Congress leader and academician Upendra Bahadur Singh, who complains that party's grassroots leaders are being ignored, also agrees that the factory issue will give the Congress an edge.
"Sonia Gandhi's victory was certain. The factory will only increase the victory margin," Singh said.
The factory will come up over 189 hectares of land while 354 hectares will go for other work like residential quarters for workers, offices etc. The annual production of the factory is estimated to be worth around 189 crore.
Land was given for the factory from dozen-odd villages, including Alampur, Belhamau, Yusufpur, Batouli, Shekwapur, Mahmadpur, Sonwal, Khairahani, Datouli and Aiyar.
The factory issues echoes 15 km away at the Gurbakshganj Chowk as well.
"There is no industry in the 25 km range. Youths migrate to Faridabad and Delhi in search of jobs while farm labourers go to Punjab. The factory is expected to create indirect jobs in the vicinity too," says Umanarayan Singh of Dharamsingh Kheda village.