When Union Agriculture Minister Rajnath Singh goes to Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s stronghold and talks about farmers’ welfare, he gets a rousing reception.
The applause gets louder when he hits out at Mulayam and says: “This is the Chief Minister’s area and you must be getting power all day.” There are shouts of ‘no’ from the public.
To this he says, “Kuch ho na ho, kum se kum hatya, balatkar, apharan to ho raha hai (If nothing else, at least murder, rape and kidnapping is happening.)”
But he knows that the shouts of “Atal-Rajnath zindabad” in this dacoit-inhabited belt are no indication of the ultimate result.
Just as the fear of dacoits is palpable, so is the perception that both dacoits and the district administration are hand-in-glove with the Samajwadi Party (SP). This ‘unholy alliance’ is publicly criticised by the other parties, with Sarita Bhadauria (the BJP candidate from Etawah) warning the police: “After the elections, I’ll strip you of your khaki uniforms and make you put on the SP uniform.”
The BJP is confident of winning the seat, provided there is no rigging in the Jaswantnagar assembly constituency.
Rajnath is not particularly worried. And the large crowds on this campaign trail has pepped him up as he moves from one meeting to another, beginning at Etah through Etawah (Mulayam’s home district) to Mainpuri (Mulayam’s constituency).
Rajnath, on his part, impressed the crowds with his oratory, concentrating on Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and development, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin and Mulayam’s poor administration.
Rajnath also made it a point to talk of the Prime Minister’s decision to reduce interest on loan for farmers from 14-18 per cent to 8-9 per cent. He said the interest rate could be further reduced to 4-5 per cent.
Meanwhile Sarita, whose MLA husband was shot dead few years back, has struck an emotional bond with the voters.
Her appeal to them is: “Beti, bahu ki koi jaat nahin hoti. Mein bheekh maangti hun ki aap mujhe vote de, mein aapko is dehshat ki jindagi se mukti dilaoongi (Daughters have no caste. I beg you to vote for me. I will free you from this life of terror).”