Itís BSP vs bijli, sadak, paani


At the Samajwadi Party rally in Binawar on the penultimate day of the campaign, Mulayam Singh Yadav looks visibly drained and sounds chief ministerial. "In the first cabinet meeting after the swearing in," he tells the crowd milling on the dusty maidan, "my government will announce a waiver of all loans of Rs 50,000 and above for farmers."

His attack on the political opponent is perfunctory. "Is there anyone here who can say that the BSP government has taken even one step for his welfare?" The promise he makes on behalf of an SP government is remarkably specific: "There are four illnesses that can be fatal and cost lakhs to treat. Heart ailments, problems of kidney, the liver, and cancer. The SP has decided to make treatment of all these illnesses free for the poor."

Towards the end of his 10-minute speech, a brief flash of uncertainty: "Tell me, will you or won't you keep my trust? Don't betray my confidence, is pagdi ki laaj rakh lena..."

At the end of a long campaign for UP, what is most striking about the speech of the doughty campaigner is not the building confidence within the SP. It is, instead, the unrelenting focus on the issue and detail of "development". In this, Mulayam's last speech in Badaun may have taken the cue from a larger undercurrent in these elections.

Two issues resonate prominently across several villages of Badaun, formerly an SP stronghold but which slipped out of its grasp in 2007, and which votes in Saturday's last phase.

One is the rising cost of inputs for the farmer even as he sells his crop at depressed rates. Fertiliser, once about Rs 500 a katta, is now sold at Rs 1,000-1,200, they say. This is not simply due to the general price rise, but because in the BSP regime, fertiliser is sold in black. The story goes like this: "Now we have to stand in long queues to buy fertiliser, something that didn't happen earlier. At the end of a long wait, we either take fertiliser at a large premium or suffer lathis." The second issue is the inadequate supply of electricity.

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