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Mirzapur sitting on the bonfire of promises

The politicians have doled out a plethora of promises, all well meaning; none seriously meant reports Amitabh Srivastava.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2007 14:55 IST

Hugely congested roads and vehicles jostling for space, dozens of shops cramped together, children running across open drains that have dirty stagnant water.

To a visitor, Mirzapur may appear to be the home page for a dream gone wrong.

And the locals know it just too well. “More slogans have been spewed by the candidates than we can possibly remember. The politicians have doled out a plethora of promises, all well meaning; none seriously meant,” said Markandey Viyar, a private teacher.

“Mirzapur is already sitting on the bonfire of promises,” echoes Bandhir Ahmad, a small time trader from Jamalpur.

Incidentally, Ahmad is a die-hard political watcher. He had clapped the loudest when Behan Mayawati delivered her fiery speech in Mirzapur. A day before he was doing the same for Akhilesh Yadav.

From a politician’s specks, however, there's little sign of the looming disillusionment. The leaders sit up front in their vehicles; beam out at a crush of villagers, straining their arms for a supplicatory touch.

But beneath the outwardly keen contest appearance, Mirzapur electorates are overwhelmingly convinced that the elections are meant only for the politicians. Bashir indeed has reasons to worry. All his nephews and sons have left Mirzapur to ply autos in Mumbai. There are very few employment avenues left here.

Bashir’ friend Altaf Khan, a political worker himself, is equally hopeless about elections.

“We may fight the elections for them, but the politicians disappear with the trophies only to revisit at election time,” he said.
This is because of the cynicism why the people don’t really talk about the two Bahujan Samaj Party MPs, whose involvement in the cash for query scam led to their dismissals, and to the by-elections in Mirzapur-Bhadhoi and Sonebhadra parliamentary constituencies.

“We are more worried because thousands of people are struggling hard to earn a livelihood from the dying brass industry,“ says Babulal, a brass metalworker of Gudari.

Babulal’s land, however, now has an impressive list of saviours selling competitive heavens. Each of the candidates has a magic listed among their future plans.

But, together they have failed to ensure sufficient water, which the parched throats at Mirzapur need most at the moment.

At Mirzapur’s outback too, several of the tubewells the government installed in the villages don't work any longer. “ The 200-odd families here have just one well left for water. Worse still, Mirzapur is already witnessing 45-degree temperature,” said Ramdhani. Kishun and Balram Mourya of Lehadia Mazre, a village in Chhanbey.

Some of the villagers, however, are trying improvising some fast bucks by doubling as ardent supporters of the political biggies.
It hardly seems to matter that it is the same set of people Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Vilasrao Deshmukh addressed within one week at Mirzapur, and the same set who did the applauding at fixture after fixture.

You don't see this happening in Mirzapur alone. You also see them in Chhanbey and in Majhwan, in Kon and in Pahari , in Sikhar and in Narayanpur, in the towns and hamlets and villages all across the district and beyond.

Most Mirzapur residents agree that key hopes raised by the leaders in the past have not been met: water, electricity, employment and development have fallen short of expectations.

Unmindful of this, the politicians are walking the extra mile to generate enthusiasm, and rope the voters in. The other day, in the middle of a dust-bowl plain, when BSP Candidate Romesh Dubey strode out to hug the poorest man around at Dabak locality, it was difficult to tell whose grin was wider.

First Published: Apr 30, 2007 14:00 IST