The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

The road to Lucknow is paved with good in­ten­tions. And lined with shin­ing, tyre­less cy­cle wheels hang­ing from makeshift shops. Pass­ing through Sik­endraRao,120km­awayfrom Etawah, I start chat­ting with the first non-Ya­dav my caste-radar can spot.

Ram­das(pro­nounced‘RauDas’), whom I meet stand­ing be­hind a cart near a rail­way cross­ing, is — I con­firm — a mem­ber of the up­per caste Saini com­mu­nity. Yes, it’s still not rude to ask some­one about his caste in UP — it’s like ask­ing for one’s email ad­dress.

“Soarey­ouselling­mo­mosork­ababs?” one out-of-the-dumpling box road­side food item and an­other stereo­typ­i­cal one crop­ping up­in­my­west­ernUPdirt-af­fected head.“No,not­mo­mosork­ababs,” repliedthes­mall,wiry­man­in­his striped sweater man­ning what seemed to me to be a stan­dard momo bas­ket with a con­i­cal lid. “This is shaka­hari biryani.” Al­most jump­ing back and my braintick­ing­cas­tee­qua­tions,Ifi­nal­ly­no­ticedthe­signon­his­cart: ShivamVegBiryani.Iasked­him — sound­ing rude, I must ad­mit, in hind­sight — whether peo­ple here ac­tu­ally bought his stuff. Das, with con­sid­er­able mar­tial Saini pride, said, “Yes, of course. It’s made of soya and tomato and you also get that chut­ney. For Rs 30,” he says, sound­ing in­cred­i­bly metaphor­i­cal.

On a more lit­eral level, he be­lieves it will be a BJP-BSP fight in UP, even though “this area [Hathras dis­trict] will go to cy­cle [SP­elec­toral­sym­bol”.Ileave­him with his cart look­ing con­tent, even though I don’t buy any of his rebel biryani. Some two hours l ater at Main­puri I meet an­other mys­tic food­seller.Main­puri,asev­erylover knows, is part of Braj coun­try, the seat of the Bhakti move­ment with­Bra­jb­hashaas­the­lan­guage of Radha’s lur­rrv for Kr­ishna. So it was rather apt that the avun­cu­lar Baecharam, owner of Jai Ma Durga Sweets — perched on the main mar­ket road, sur­rounded bystack­sofladoos,gu­la­b­ja­muns in a kadai and other sweet delecta­bles­be­hind­him—sol­dmepure, syrupy love on Valen­tine’s Day: 150 gm of jalebi.

Along with the pre­dic­tion that theSPwill­re­turn­this­time,with theBJP­trail­ing.Why?“Be­cause Akhilesh has brought devel­op­ment to UP, while the BJP keeps talkingabout­de­vel­op­ingUPonly if voted into power. Pharak hai. (There’s a dif­fer­ence.)”

Thank­ing him, I move into the dodg­yarm­sofBra­jb­hashiSweets and Restau­rant for lunch. Why? Be­cause they have al­ready dec­o­rated the ceil­ing with heart bal­loons, while the shop next door....

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