Decoding voters’ mind on expressway: Not as smooth as the drive
Radhey Singh, 29, works as a driver for a car rental service based in Lucknow.
Driving down to Agra, he is full of praise for the Agra-Lucknow Expressway.
“I wish all roads are like this. Work becomes a pleasure when you have to drive through such roads. Governments should be development-oriented like this. People want development,” he says.
When asked how many times has he voted and for whom, and when was the first time he rode the expressway?
Radhey answers the second question first.
“I use this road to take a client to Delhi. I had used both this one and the Yamuna Expressway (the one built in the previous Bahujan Samaj Party regime). Since then, I drove on it five times,” says the graduate who hails from Hardoi.
Hardoi too is connected with the Agra Lucknow Expressway built by the Akhilesh Yadav government in record 23 months.
Akhilesh got it inaugurated on November 22, 2016, on the eve of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav’s 77th birthday.
The stylish inauguration saw Air Forces fighter jets landing on the road runway section of the e-way.
Akhilesh had hoped to return to power ‘riding on’ the expressway and several other flagship schemes of his government, including the free laptop distributions to students.
Ironically, his “Kaam Bolta Hai (work speaks for itself) slogan failed to cut ice with the electorates.
What Radhey reveals, as an answer to the first question, perhaps explain how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power with a thumping majority.
“Like hundreds of others from my caste, my voting pattern is based on allegiance to a political party. While one member of my family got the house under Lohia Awas scheme under Akhilesh government, another member of our clan got a house under Narendra Modi Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna. But these are not the factor that guides my vote,” says Radhey, who exercised his franchise for the first time in 2014 parliamentary polls, and then in 2017 UP Assembly one. Himself a backward, he is not a Samajwadi Party voter.
Paradoxically, Radhey’s sentiments also echo in Rishi Yadav, 27, a die-hard Samajwadi Party voter
“Expressway or no expressway, development or no development, I vote for the Samajwadi Party,” says Rishi while admitting that expressway did change his life in many ways.
“My father, a farmer with a four bigha land died of cancer two years ago. Family’s responsibility came on me. So I opened this cigarette-pan masala kiosk nearby a road cut on the expressway in Nagla Thamman village in Mainpuri district,” he says.
Before the expressway, Agra and Lucknow were connected by a narrow two-lane road riddled with potholes and sluggish traffic.
The 302-kilometre expressway now provides a seamless journey and transformed the lives and livelihoods of many en route--Agra, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etawah, Auraiya, Kanpur, Kannauj, Unnao and Lucknow. It was built at the cost of Rs 13,200 crore (Rs 132 billion).
Vijay Singh Rajput, 52, a farmer and resident of Sanjapur in Mainpuri says: “The expressway is 12 km from my village. It is very good. I have travelled on it. But, even when it did not exist, we had no option but to vote for Mulayam Singh Yadav (the candidate here) and even now, we will vote for him. He wins always irrespective of whosoever contests against him. So, why waste the vote by giving it to someone else.”
He is a non-Yadav backward by caste.
Pramod Kumar, an autorickshaw owner-driver in Etawah says, “Yes, it is a great road. Everyone praises it. Yet, I vote on ‘Sidhant (principles)’ and my vote is not for the Samajwadi Party.
A bangles transporter in Firozabad, Rajendra Chauhan, a backward, says, “Bangles are a delicate product. And before the expressway, the damage rate of bangles used to be high and transportation slow. Now, the speed of transportation is high and damage low. But, this doesn’t mean that a party would have any ownership on my vote. My vote is for Shivpal ji (Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia (PSP-L),” says Chauhan making it clear that decoding the voters’ mind is as tough as grabbing/reaching Delhi, albeit if it’s not through a car drive via Agra-Lucknow expressway and Yamuna expressway.