Hindustan Times (Lucknow)
In Kheri, it’s caste over development
LAKHIMPUR KHERI: Mohammad Imtiyaz, 56, a native of Sansarpur village, is restless as sunset approaches. Seated on a bund that divides his agriculture land with the highway he shouts at the labourers “Complete the harvesting fast”. SP candidate Ravi Prakash Verma is expected to arrive in the village any moment, he says, showing the message on his mobile. “We wish to discuss the support of his caste (Kurmi) to SP in the election. If Kurmis desert SP, then Muslims will think over the other alternative- Congress or BSP, to check the BJP,” he says.
Not only Imtiyaz but also others of his community in this predominantly Muslim village are keeping a close watch on the activities in Kurmi-dominated villages. The Muslim- Kurmi combo can give the winning edge to any candidate, says Sulaiman, adding that in the 2012 assembly election, out of five seats the SP secured victory on three due to this combination.
The BJP is trying hard to woo the Kurmis and has given ticket to Rekha Verma from neighbouring Dhaurhara seat. It has fielded a Brahmin Ajay Kumar alias Teni from Kheri seat. Muslims’ support to SP will depend on which way the Kurmi voters swing this time, Sulaiman says.
Retired teacher Mohammad Aslam, 68, says since 1952 Kurmi candidates fielded by Congress, SP and BJP have secured victory maximum number of times in the Lok Sabha election.
Well -known Lakhimpur academician SC Mishra says a few days back social and economic issues like flood control, non-payment of sugarcane arrears, closure of small scale industries and opening of educational institutions topped the agenda of political parties during campaign. As the date of election draws near, the development issues have been pushed aside and every candidate is now busy calculating the support of caste or community.