Armed with patriotism, this ‘village of soldiers’ roots for a strong government
Sitting on a platform in the shadow of a tree, octogenarian Banshidhar Singh, a retired armyman, engages in political discussion with other residents of Gahmar village of Ghazipur district in east UP.
It being the poll season, just 50 metres away, an LED screen mounted on a vehicle is beaming messages to make people aware of their voting rights. Locals gather around the vehicle as a song ‘ Loktantra ka sabse bada parv hai aaya’ is played out.
The air strike on terror camps in Balakot (Pakistan) on February 26 is one of the most discussed topics among the locals in election season.
Caste lines have blurred and locals are polarised in their views on patriotism in a village that has given thousands of soldiers to the armed forces.
Gahmar, known for sending a large number of youths to the armed forces, is just four kilometres off the Bihar border and has a population of over 1 lakh.
The population comprises of Thakurs (40%), Brahmin (10%), OBC (20%), Dalit (20%) and minorities (10%).
Villagers claim every house has a person who has either served or is presently serving in the armed forces.
As the discussion progresses, Banshidhar praises Prime Minister Narendra Modi and credits him with taking strong decision to give a befitting reply to Pakistan through air strike on terror camps at Balakot in Pakistan.
“The free hand given to the army and paramilitary forces to ensure stringent action against terrorists has boosted the morale of armed forces,” he says.
“No other PM in the past could do what Modi has done. He took tough decisions, taught a lesson to Pakistan and increased the pension of ex-armymen. He promptly acted on the issue of one rank, one pension,” Banshidhar says.
Supporting Banshidhar, Rambharat Bind (an OBC), says: “I am a farmer. My two sons are in the army. I am proud of our PM as he has ensured development in the country and made the country proud.”
Till 2014, Rambharat was a Samajwadi Party loyalist but supported the BJP after getting influenced by Modi. “Jawans are happy and the PM is making efforts to increase the income of the youths,” he adds.
“There may not be a ‘Modi wave’ this time but ‘Modi factor’ is still very much at play. Visit the villages and speak to people to verify if my statement has some basis or not,” he says.
He says air strike on terror camps in Pakistan won the hearts of the people. “Modi enjoys support of all the communities. In the last Lok Sabha elections, caste lines didn’t have place. In this election too, caste factor will not work,” he claims.
“The families of the jawans are happy that the government has taken revenge of the Pulwama terror attack in which 41 CRPF jawans were killed,” Bind says.
Before he could complete the sentence, another villager Akshayvar Singh asks him, “Why are you chanting Modi, Modi? There are other leaders too. Why don’t you talk about them? Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav is a good leader. As a chief minister, he tried his best to ensure development in UP.”
Countering Akshayvar, a local farmer Kailash Upadhyaya says, “Even if his party (SP) wins, he is not going to be the PM after this election at least. This is a general election. Even a child knows it. We have to elect a prime minister and we should choose the best leader.”
Others like Purushottam Singh and Ramlakshan Singh have their own logics for their support to PM Modi.
Ramlakshan compares Modi to former PM late Lal Bahadur Shastri.
“After Shastri ji, Modi ji is the first PM to keep the interests of ‘jawan’ (soldiers) and ‘kisan’ (farmers) above everything else. He implemented ‘one rank, one pension’ scheme, gave a free hand to the armed forces in dealing with Pakistan, and announced an amount of Rs 6,000 to farmers having less than five hectare land. The first installment of Rs 2,000 has already come into the accounts of many farmers,” he says.
“Why did the previous government not take such steps?” he asks.
Another local Veerendra Chaudhary observes that the party which thinks of development and implements schemes for the welfare of the poor should come to power.
“Modi launched Swachh Bharat Scheme and ensured construction of toilets in every house. He introduced schemes like Ayushman Bharat and Ujjawala Yojana under which the poor were given free LPG connections,” he says, adding that irrespective of caste and creed, Modi worked for every section of the society.
Modassir Hussain, a shop owner in Revatipur village of Ghazipur, is not happy with the present government.
“No one is happy with the Modi government. This government failed in creating job opportunities, and introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation. GST created a lot of problem for the people like me who are running small business,” he says.
Krishna Kumar Kharwar, a teacher at a school, says the government focused on development and paid attention to every community. “The road passing through my village was broken. But it has now been constructed,” he says.
Another local Veerendra Chaudhary says Modi is good for the post of PM.
There are many villages like Shayar, Bhatauia and Karaiya from where many people are in the army where nationalism and patriotism dominates over issues like development and unemployment.
Army aspirants hail PM for air strike
Youngsters from Gahmar village, who aspire to join the armed forces in future, are all praise for the BJP government at the Centre.
Air strike across the Line of Control (LoC), safe return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan and India’s strong ties with Israel are the hot topics of discussion among the youths.
Pramod Kumar Singh, who wants to join the army, says: “Modi extensively toured foreign countries and strengthened India’s position globally. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among his best friends. Everyone knows the strength of Israel.”
“Because of his efforts, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned safely from Pakistan,” he says.
Varthaman’s MiG-21 aircraft was shot down by Pakistan and he was captured by Pakistani armed forces. He was later released by Pakistan.
Another aspirant Shakti Singh says, “Even the jawans who are deployed on the borders are happy because of the policies of PM Modi.”
Attacking opposition parties for cornering Modi government over unemployment, Shakti says: “Earlier, there was group D recruitment examination, then SSC. RPF recruitment is also in the pipeline and I am preparing for it. Recruitment in UP Police was also conducted.”
“Candidates who have talent got jobs. In this government, ‘jugaad’ (using unfair means) didn’t work,” he says.