Nisar Siddiqui and M. Anas | Caravan Daily
AMROHA — On Delhi-Moradabad highway lies Garh Mukteshwar, a small town on the banks of river Ganga. From here begins the Amroha constituency of West UP. Garh Mukteshwar is a famous pilgrimage city for north Indian Hindus. There is always a festival like an environment here with pilgrims thronging the banks of the Ganga. These days, however, festivities have a political flavour. More than the pilgrims, political workers of various parties are seen in the rallies, canvassing among locals and even soliciting media attention as media crews head from Delhi to cover the election in the state.
Sakshi Tanwar, a local and BJP supporter, is a young student, who doesn’t have much belief in religious rituals but is backing the BJP, a party known for its hardline religious orientation. She defends her decision. “Only BJP is fighting this election in the name of national security. This is the only party that has stable national leadership. Its rivals, like the SP-BSP alliance, are reluctant allies who can’t be trusted to lead the country. Hence, the maximum people in Garh are in favour of the saffron party,” she said.
However, she rates the incumbent BJP MP and party candidate, Kanwar Singh Tanwar, a Rajput, quite poorly. “He doesn’t visit our town. Most of his time is spent in Delhi or looking after his business. Even chief minister Yogi Adityanath has visited Garh twice in last two years, but we are yet to see our MP,” she said. But the poor performance of the MP doesn’t shake her faith in BJP. “We will vote for the nation. We will vote for the leadership of PM Modi,” she said.
Few more students like Sakshi were interviewed by these correspondents, who also echoed almost similar sentiments – disappointed with MP, but firmly standing by the Modi government. Talking of lesser developmental work done in their areas, they admitted to there being no proper college or job opportunities in Garh. “Most of the students and labours have to move to the neighbouring Ghaziabad and Delhi in search of work,” they complained.
There are about 16 lakh voters in Amroha, of which 11.5 lakh are Hindus, which are again segregated into sections like Upper caste (Brahmin, Vaishya, Rajputs), Jats, OBCs (Sainis and Shakya) and Dalits (Jatavs, Valmikis, Khateeks and Pals).
As you move from Garh Mukteshwar into downtown Amroha, you may see tractors loaded with sugar canes. The farmers are taking their yield to the Simbhaoli sugar mill. Unsure of return for their yield, they nevertheless head towards the mill.
Amreesh Singh, a Jat from Asgaripur village, said that cane dues have caused major suffering for sugar cane growers in Amroha. “When BJP came to power in the state, CM Yogi promised to clear all the dues within 100 days. But, it’s more than two years now but the dues continue to pile up and only a minuscule amount for the past dues have been cleared,” said Singh. When asked about his electoral preference, he kept mum.
While addressing a gathering in village Manjhola, MP Kanwar Singh Tanwar rejected charges of the BJP government having neglected farmers. “Dues of cane farmers will soon be cleared. We are atal (firm) in our promise. Besides, all schemes like Fasal Bima Yojna, Jan Dhan Yojna will be implemented without any bias in all villages of the district,” he said.
But there were farmers who insisted continued oppression of farmers. Ghulam Mohammed, a young activist, and son of a farmer in Sargaudha village, said that neither dues of the farmers have been cleared not have their loans been waived off completely. “Instead, farmers are being duped by the banks and their loans are being renewed as they near one-year time. Yogi government had promised to waive off farm loan within a period of one year. As illiterate farmers approach bank officials to request for their loans to be waived off, they are fraudulently made to sign papers that renew their loans for a longer period. It snatches them the opportunity of getting benefits of farm loan waiver scheme,” said Mohammed, adding that his father has been one such farmer victim.
Amidst woes of farmers and hopes and disappointment with BJP MP enter Kunwar Danish Ali, a Jamia Millia Islamia alumnus, and alliance candidate, who switched over from JDS to BSP. He is an outsider for Amroha but he carries the burden of hopes for locals who are angry with the BJP government and its incumbent MP.
In Joya, a tehsil town of Amroha, the majority of Muslims who these correspondents met voiced its support for Ali. However, there were also people who express anger against Ali as he allegedly didn’t mingle with the local Samajwadi Party leadership.
Professor Shah Alam Turk, a local, said that maximum Muslim votes will go to Ali as he is the sole option for them. “He is the man who is poised to defeat the BJP candidate and thus will be preferred by almost all Muslims,” said Turk.
There are about 5.5 lakh Muslims out of 16 lakh Amroha voters. They are scattered among baradaris like Turk, Ansari, Saifi, and Telis.
Talking to the Caravan Daily, Ali said that he was contesting the poll to defeat the forces of hate. “In the last five years, BJP government has only delivered set of jumlas (promises) and toxified the communal atmosphere in the entire country. Even the Constitution seems under the threat. This election is to save the country and its Constitution,” he said.
Ali not only enjoys the support of several lobbies within the district, but some members of Jamia Alumni Association are also canvassing on his behalf.
“If elected, Ali will be the first Jamia student to reach Lok Sabha,” said Shuaib Pasha, a Jamia student who is working to garner support for Ali in Amroha.
Challenging both Ali and Tanwar is Congress’ Sachin Chaudhary, a Jat. Chaudhary is popular and local. “But he is the least preferred choice of the voters here. At the most, he will cut into BJP’s votes by grabbing support of Jats and farmers. It will pave the way for Ali,” said Faisal Lateef, a local.