Land acquisition is not much of an issue in eastern UP, economically a backwater. Yet farmers there are closely watching the fallout of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's pro-kisan padyatra from Greater Noida to Aligarh, the stretch that had seen considerable disturbance over an expressway that is coming up.
Kushi Nagar's Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Ranjit Singh said: “People in six villages are agitated over land acquisition for the Maitreya Buddha project (project to set up a 500-foot statue of Lord Buddha and schools and medical facilities for local people). They have faced bullets in the past and have been agitating for long. Obviously they are keen to know the fall-out of this padyatra.”
Farmers are agitated over firing on their counterparts in Greater Noida and are interested in the land acquisition bill, supposed to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. A group of farmers, however, had hailed the UP government's policy, in terms of which the state will have no role in land acquisition.
Ranjit Singh said he had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the land issue.
“But the Centre has not taken any initiative as yet. We welcome Rahul’s initiative. More than that we want the political parties to do politics on issues of development instead of caste and religion. For us land acquisition is going to be the biggest issue across the state.”
“Didn’t the Congress benefit from the loan waiver scheme in the Lok Sabha election (of 2009)? It will gain from the land acquisition bill too. How much? It’s too early to say. Nonetheless the politics of the state, which revolved around the caste arithmetic, is heading for a change.”
However, Fateh Bahadur, an activist from Gorakhpur, says caste may remain an important decisive factor in eastern UP, where public issues are different from those of other parts of the state. “UP is a huge state and every region has its own problems. Land acquisition is an issue, but not as big as in west UP. Still farmers are keenly watching the developing scene.”
“People here are more influenced by caste politics, though the Congress seems to be gaining ground.”