The BSP is expected to romp home in Khamaria. Once a picture of neglect, this predominantly Dalit village in Sitapur district, 136 km north of Lucknow, has undergone a metamorphosis within a year.
The process began after Khamaria was selected under the Ambedkar Samagra Gramya Vikas Yojana in 2009. "Soon after, the block development officer (BDO) arrived with hundreds of labourers to launch development work," recalls village pradhan Sadananad.
As the villagers watched, a muddy path gave way to a concrete road. And now, the village boasts of streetlights, public toilets, school, drains, two dozen hand pumps, a community centre and pucca houses.
"Till a year ago, we had to trudge a long distance to reach the pucca road and catch a bus for nearby Maholi town. Not anymore. The village is connected with a link road," says Ranjit, 35, a landless labourer.Another villager Mohan Pasi adds, "Earlier, the women had to walk to the hand pump in nearby Sogura village to get water. Often, they were taunted and forced to wait for the upper caste people to draw first."
Like sanitation and connectivity, education too has come to the village.
A dozen children can be seen attending English class in the open. Tutor Ram Mohan says, "With an increase in income, the dalit communities are striving for a change in their lifestyle. The children attend school, as well as a special English class in the evening. The farmers are aware of the importance of English."
With Maholi going to the polls in the first phase on February 8, campaigning is on in full swing. But only the BSP candidate has visited; those from the Congress, BJP and SP have stayed away.
"Khamaria has turned into a citadel for the blue brigade. We do not want to waste our time," says Charan Lal, a supporter of the SP candidate Anup Gupta.
Khamaria is not an isolated case. There are over dozens of villages in Sitapur district — including Dauli, Hardashpur and Parshera — which are reckoned as progressive after their selection under the Ambedkar village development scheme.
District BSP president Ram Murti says, "The party won four assembly seats in Sitapur in 2007 and two in 2002."
"The Ambedkar village development scheme was launched in 1995 during Mayawati's first tenure as CM. The focus of the project was to improve the living standards of the suppressed communities. In 2003, when the SP came to power, the dalit-dominated villages were neglected as the programme was dropped. The have-nots expressed their anger by supporting the BSP in 2007 election. We hope to cash in on the development of the Ambedkar villages," he adds.