IT’S A by-election thrust on them due to the brutal murder of the sitting BJP MLA, and the 1.53 lakh voters of the reserved Pandhana constituency appear more wrapped up in their own humdrum life and supplicating leaders into solving their pressing problems than any other issues.
Perhaps, at the back of their minds is the realisation that whichever party wins, there won’t be any change in the government or its functioning. But, there is a faint hope that they would get a better deal.
Nothing epitomises the situation better than what was witnessed at Palasi village, Deshgaon police station, some three km off the main Indore-Khandwa Road on Wednesday afternoon.
Within a space of half-an-hour former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh accompanied by the Congress candidate Hiralal Silawat and Bharatiya Janshakti leader Prahlad Patel came to the village, briefly addressed the small congregation of villagers sitting at the courtyard of the Bhagwan Singh, who by the way is the richest and most influential Thakur of the village, and went their way.
Only the posters had changed. Before the arrival of the Congress candidate, his smiling poster adorned the wall, which was promptly replaced with a poster of Uma Bharti and the BJ candidate Vasudev Atut before Prahlad Patel reached the spot. Almost the same set of villagers touched the feet of the leaders of the opposing parties as a mark of respect, quietly listened and sometimes cheered and clapped as they berated their rivals and asked them to vote for their respective parties.
But, at the end of it all, some of the villagers spoke of the basic civic problems they were facing and pleaded with the leaders to do something.
One of the villagers, Vijayendra Singh Gaur, said that on Tuesday State BJP president Narendra Singh Tomar had also visited them and the villagers had put up the same set of problems before him.
And problems are aplenty. The three km approach road off the smooth Indore-Khandwa highway is a nightmare. It takes around 20 minutes to negotiate the torture going by the name of a road. No one in the village could say when it was last repaired. For the 250-odd, mostly poor members of the Balai community, life is more difficult. There is no water tank to store water from the community boring.
“If the motor runs a snag we are forced to drink water of the nearby semi-stagnant river, says Narayan Kaure, adding, “The rich Thakurs and Gujjars have their own wells, but we don’t.” Needless to say, the Balais are discouraged from drawing water from the wells of the upper castes.
The administration’s attempt to solve the problem has been half hearted – a boring was made six months ago, but no motor was installed. Why? No one is sure. The well off are also not very happy, not solely on account of the (non-existent) roads and erratic power supply. Apparently, the gates of a nearby stop dam that irrigates 100 acres of land had been stolen, and were not replaced as a result of which there is no water in the stop dam this year, and the Rabi crop is going to be affected.
The leaders, be it Digvijay Singh or Prahlad Patel or Devendra Verma of the BJP try to generate angst among the people by playing up these problems. But, each gives his own twist to the genesis of the problem and throws a panacea to their problems – vote for us. For Digvijay Singh and Hiralal Silawat, it is the BJP-led State Government that has failed.
Singh points out that he gave free power during his rule, waived loans, but the BJP is exploiting the farmers and workers. He asserts that money from the Centre has come, but the State Government has failed to ulitise it.
Prahlad Patel blames both BJP and Congress for the ills. “It’s pure and simply corruption at all levels and that is why Uma Didi left the BJP,” he says, and adds, “it’s a fight for ‘dharma’ and we have to defeat the opposition.”
The villagers, be it from Palasi, or Jamli or for that matter Deshgaon or Chegaon Makhan, are caught between the conflicting claims and blame game, as they wait for the politicians and their supporters’ cavalcade to move on, and get on with their work – that of preparing the field for the Rabi season.