Garotha Assembly seat in Bundelkhand, nearly 80 km from Jhansi, narrates the unique story of a candidate with a difference.
People as well as the media in Bundelkhand have eagerly been waiting to witness one of the most interesting election duels at Garotha Assembly seat under Jhansi Lok Sabha constituency in this drought-hit region of Uttar Pradesh.
It won’t be an exaggeration to describe this contest between BJP candidate Jawahar Lal Rajpoot and Samajwadi Party’s (SP) heavyweight and two-time sitting MLA Deep Narayan Singh Yadav as a battle between David and Goliath.
Rajpoot, a 51-year old farmer from Garotha, is known less as a BJP candidate and more as a farmer-activist, who has been fighting for various issues of farmers and farm labourers for over 25 years. His election campaign is interesting to watch as he proceeds every morning for various destinations on foot, bullock cart, motorcycle and sometimes on four-wheeler, which has been given to him by his ‘well-wishers and friends’.
“I’m a simple farmer and personally I have a motorcycle only in my possession. My friends and well-wishers funded my campaign and have even got me a four-wheeler. But as I am a farmer, I prefer to undertake padyatras and rallies on bullock cart,” Rajpoot told Firstpost, during a break in the middle of his rally.
Interestingly, unlike many of the BJP candidates, Rajpoot hardly has any glam quotient or extravaganza attached to him or his poll campaign. Rather, his rallies and public meetings are more a one-on-one connect with his farming fraternity. The people, mostly farmers, of this constituency where infrastructure is completely in bad shape, with dry fields due to lack of regular water supply, have been pooling in money to fund his campaign.
“It’s the people of the area who have made Jawahar Lal ji contest this election, as they have trust him. Through public contribution we’re carrying out our poll campaign. Thousands of people are with us and they want to get rid of the anarchy of the present SP MLA. Due to his padyatras with farmers, people have started calling him Bundelkhand ka Kisan Gandhi,” remarked Ramakant Rajpoot, one of the key members and a part of the poll campaign.
In contrast, his competitor Deep Narayan Singh Yadav aka Deepak Yadav has earned many acronyms -- ‘Bahubali neta’ (Muscle man), ‘mining mafia’ and what not. In fact, Yadav is one of the most powerful SP leaders in Bundelkhand armed with both money and muscle power.
It is said that Yadav, who enjoys patronage of veteran Congress leader from royal family of Samthar, Ranjit Singh Judeo “Raja Sahab”, had a close shave with a police encounter during Kalyan Singh government. “Raja sahab saved him,” a villager said.
“Deepak Yadav, who got into several criminal activities after studies from extortion to land grabbing, gradually rose up the ladder as a white-collared powerful politician within Samajwadi Party. He is into illegal sand mining and at his house there are 10 currency counting machines. Today, he’s virtually a terror in Bundelkhand and gets all his wishes fulfilled through high connections in bureaucracy and police. Nobody dares to speak against him. He has dramatically changed from our college days,” shared one of Yadav’s classmates of Inter-college days in Jhansi.
From Rajpoot’s medium height, thick beard and equally broad eyebrows make it hard to fathom the courage he has to take Yadav head on.
“Yadav has been an MLA for 10 years but no development has taken place in this area. Forget supply of water for irrigation, even farmers fail to get regular drinking water in this region. They have to buy water. Farmers committed suicide, but the MLA did nothing. He only grabbed thousands of hectares of farm land, made fortune from illegal mining and has built a city in his son’s name – Moon city, whereas the basic infrastructure of Garotha continues to be in a pathetic state. As he has the blessings of CM Akhilesh Yadav, nobody dares to speak against him. He has created fear psychosis among villagers and farmers,” Jawahar Lal alleged, who’s also a law graduate.
On his BJP candidature, he said, “I’m a foot soldier of the BJP and never got into active politics. I only worked for the cause of farmers and this is the first time I’ve entered electoral politics. My voters include farmers irrespective of their caste and community—they can be Brahmins, thakurs, yadavs, kurmis, ahirwars, anything. I have actively worked for years amongst them without demanding any post in the party.”
“There’s no one as powerful as Deep Narayan Yadav in Bundelkhand, due to which he won two elections consecutively, but now, people including many from the Yadav community, who had been at the receiving end, have joined hands with Rajpootji. If he wins and the BJP forms government in UP, we can expect development of this region,” added Phoolchand, a farmer.
Rajpoot has raised the issues of regular, water supply from dams to fields, end of extortion, criminal activities and terror; good roads, proper supply of electricity, growth in agricultural produce and right price for crops. “My issues are in line with our Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has emphasised on doubling farmers’ income,” added Rajpoot. The fourth phase of voting on 23 February will prove how many dared to go against ‘Bahubali’ Yadav and vote for Rajpoot to win.