Congress’ announcement of a financial package worth more than Rs 6,000 crores for weavers could not translate into votes for the party in Uttar Pradesh, home to more than two lakh weavers.
In eastern Uttar Pradesh, weavers have a dominating presence in Mubarakpur, Muzaffarnagar, Bhadohi, Mau, Varanasi and Azamgarh, Tanda and Etawah. Voters, here, have rejected Congress Party for BSP and SP, depending on specific factors in various assembly constituencies. All in all, there is not a single district where Congress’ poll sop seems to have got it vote of the weaver community.
Last year, weavers from Uttar Pradesh and rest of the country met Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to conceptualise the financial package.
Under the scheme, closely monitored by Rahul Gandhi, individual weavers can get loan up to Rs 2 lakh for three years without any collateral security. However, there are many factors due to which the poll sop could not tilt the results of the assembly election in favour of the Congress.
Most important of them all, is the timing of the scheme’s launch. Coming four months before the assembly elections, weavers saw it as a poll sop and not a genuine scheme meant for their welfare. Also, the scheme could not be implemented in Uttar Pradesh due to model code of conduct. Therefore, weavers in the state could not see ground results of the scheme.
Secondly, a major chunk of the financial package is meant for cooperative societies. Weavers have had a bitter experience with cooperatives. When Firstpost visited eastern Uttar Pradesh, numerous weavers said that they had lost their money to cooperatives.
“Voters were scared from their previous experiences of relying on cooperative societies. That is why they may have not voted for the Congress,” said Faizan, the 25-year-old handloom weaver who was visited by Rahul Gandhi in July last year.
BSP’s Shah Aalam Guddu Jamaali is leading by 100 votes in Mubarakpur assembly seat, where Faizan lives.
Thirdly, thousands of weavers are need in regular power supply and have been slapped with power theft cases. A reason why Mulayam Singh Yadav promised them power supply while campaigning in the weavers’ belt. Congress failed to see this.
Then there are weavers in Varanasi who are in need of proper nourishment rather than schemes. Dhannipur, a village of weavers in Varanasi district, is home to 116 malnourished children. The poll sop was seen as too little, too late. Here, too, weavers have elected BSP.
According to People’s Vigilance Committee for Human Rights, an NGO working for the cause of weavers, 47 weavers committed suicide between 2007 and 2009 in the district.
Hyaat Mohammad, handloom weaver in Varanasi’s Shivpur assembly seat, was busy spinning yarn when almost the entire nation was glued to television watching election results.
BSP’s Uday Lal Maurya is leading from Shivpur, a development, Hayaat said, he predicted long back.