LucknowResidents of Mahasinghpur, a village panchayat in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district, have threatened to boycott the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections if they were not ridden of the problem of salty water.The fresh threat comes after the local administration foiled their bid to put themselves up for auction at Maya village, one of the three villages comprising the Mahasinghpur panchayat, on January 26. They had announced their decision to auction themselves to generate funds required for a drinking water project, the proposal of which the state government had turned down in October, citing lack of funds as the reason.Village pradhan Hariom Shankar said, “Now, we have been left with no choice but to boycott the coming Lok Sabha elections as a mark of protest due to the authorities ignoring our demand of making potable water available to us.”The Mahasinghpur panchayat has a population of around 5,000.“Ours is a Thakur-dominated village panchayat and majority of people had voted for the BJP in 2014 and 2017. But this time, the neighbouring Thakur-dominated panchayats too may join us in our call to not participate in the election process in 2019,” Shankar claimed.Chandrapal Singh, an educated youth who has been leading the agitation for months, said police arrived at the village on the night of January 25, “telling us they would not allow us to hold any programme other than flag-hoisting on the Republic Day”.“We had served a notice on the district magistrate, informing him that villagers would start offering themselves up for the bids in a collective auction to be held at the village to generate Rs 2.11 crore funds for the state government to sanction a piped water supply project,” he said.“We had written letters to the country’s top industrialists, inviting them to participate in the bids,” he added.“Since the administration did not allow us to do this also, we have decided to boycott the coming Lok Sabha elections to register our protest if the demand was not met,” he said.Despite repeated attempts to contact him, the circle officer of Sikandra Rao was not available for his comment on how the auction bid was foiled.Mohan Singh of Rajnagar village under the same panchayat said villages in a 10-km radius in the area were facing the acute problem of salty water for years. “Recently we had been on relay fast for three months to press the demand but in vain,” he said. He also claimed that around 80 Thakur-dominated villages in the area might join hands in boycotting the general elections.LOCAL MLA’s TAKE Local BJP MLA Veerendra Singh Rana said the problem of salty water was not confined to Mahasinghpur village panchayat, but it affected over 50 villages under the Sikandra Rao assembly constituency.“A comprehensive drinking water project worth Rs 188 crore is under consideration by the chief minister. I hope the project will be sanctioned very soon, putting an end to the salty water problem in all the affected villages,” he said.“But the problem is that residents of Mahasinghpur village panchayat keep on resorting to one kind of agitation or the other, demanding that the drinking water project for their village be sanctioned first in isolation,” Rana said.He also said the problem was very old but they (the villagers) never resorted to pressure tactics under previous regimes.