Paramilitary forces are all set to patrol villages for the last leg of UP elections on May 8. Unlike past elections, when the terror of khaki was used to prevent the lower castes from voting, the forces this time would ask all the voters to come out in full force to use their constitutional right.
“Thanks to the positive impact of the forces, more Dalits are coming out to vote than the upper castes,” said a senior official of Border Security Force (BSF) in Gazipur, where mafia don Mukhtar Ansari is contesting the polls as an independent candidate.
The BSF official said people now feel more confident of using their voting rights due to the various rules enforced by the Election Commission (EC) — for example, no vehicles were allowed within 100 metres of a polling booth, a proper queue was maintained for all the voters, only central government officials were recruited as major election functionaries and UP police officers were restricted outside the booths.
However, there were some, like J.P. Singh of Ibrahim Patti village who blamed the central forces for the low turnout of the upper castes. “They do not allow cars near the booths. We have to wait in a long queue alongwith the Dalits and it is so hot there,” he said.
Pawan Singh, a candidate from Bansadi assembly segment, called it “reverse discrimination” of the EC against the upper castes. “They don’t allow even the senior citizens to jump the queue. This rule affects only the upper castes,” he lamented.
Manoj Singh, a Congress candidate from Doaba, however, said that the EC’s move has reduced financial burden on the candidates and now anyone can contest the elections.
In the end, though political parties may have a few objections, majority of the people are giving a thumbs up to the EC for a free and fair election.
“For the first time an upper caste candidate came to my house asking for my vote,” said Ramlal Rajbhar of Amali village in Dewaria district.