Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's campaign slogan, #KaamBoltaHai, is a catchy tagline that has evoked a lot of interest across the state and on social media. But for people of Mirzapur, adjacent to Varanasi, a paraphrased version of the catchphrase, "Gadi ka tyre bolta hai (it is the tyres that screech)", has become more popular. As you turn off the Varanasi-Allahabad expressway towards Vindhyachal, you realise with a rude jolt the reason behind this innovative tailoring of the tagline.
Potholes on this state highway are deep enough to break the axle of the vehicle, if not negotiated properly. Right from Mirzapur to Allahabad, the pollution and dust-filled atmosphere makes breathing a difficult exercise. Lungs gasp for fresh air, but in vain.
All this makes you wonder how the chief minister has been brazenly tom-toming his so-called achievements? In an era of raising sales pitches and marketing, politics in our country has come quite close to Paul Joseph Goebbels's maxim that, "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually believe it". The conditions in UP suggest that people are living a lie 'big enough' and repeated ad nauseam that its repudiation appears false.
Mirzapur, surrounded by Allahabad and Varanasi, serves as a classic example of perfidy of the political class. Once known as the powerhouse of UP's infrastructure, it has now turned into a living nightmare for the residents.
Just three decades back, the city was thriving with economic activity – with three cement factories in Dala, Churk and Chunar producing non-stop for infrastructural development. Just before liberalisation, when the housing sector was monopolised by the state, these factories were regarded as gold mines.
Similarly, the region boasted of several power plants, as water was abundant and proximity with Jharkhand ensured regular coal supply. But things went horribly wrong after the liberalisation movement and the end of the quota-permit raj. Government-run cement factories were closed and industrial units became financially unviable, rendering a large section of the population unemployed. "It is living hell," said a woman, living by the side of the picturesque Windom Fall, where a powerful stream of water passes through the hillocks of the Vindhya Range.
It would be wrong to assume that people's anger towards Akhilesh's non-performance would benefit either the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). People are equally miffed by these parties. For instance, people from the city seem quite upset with the indifference of their MP, Union minister Anupriya Patel, who has been mostly inaccessible to them. Anupriya belongs to the Apna Dal party, which is essentially a caste-based outfit of the Kunbis (kurmis), in alliance with the BJP. In less than three years, she has earned a level of unpopularity that is quite spectacular.
But Anupriya is not the only one to have faced the ire of people. Mirzapur has not been kind to prominent BJP leaders like Rajnath Singh and Om Prakash Singh as well, who have been accused of ignoring the district after gaining prominence. And much of these accusations are not unfounded.
Similarly, the BSP, which emerged as a powerful political force in the past, is singularly blamed for ruining the eco-system of the Vindhya region, known as the Kaimur Range. In fact, the Mayawati government allowed large scale mining of stones in the area, that depleted the water and destroyed the forest and hills.
As the Assembly election in the region draws nearer, the electorate's predicament in choosing the lesser evil is quite evident. They are seething with rage over Akhilesh's audacious tagline and are left wondering if the alternatives will be any better. Of course, Mirzapur or its adjoining Sonbhadra district are not an aberration but rather a pattern in the eastern part of the state.
The roads from Varanasi to Azamgarh or other interior pathways connecting to suburban areas are in pathetic condition. The education and health services are in shambles. It would be wrong to assume that the country's most populous state has come to ruins only in the past five years.
All the parties that have ruled the state in the past three decades have contributed in bringing UP to such a pass. The only difference between Akhilesh and his predecessors is that the former has been making an audacious political experiment with “a lie big enough" to make it appear as the truth.
Updated Date: Feb 21, 2017 11:28 AM