Villagers to boycott polls in Gandhi bastion

About two dozen villages in Amethi represented by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi vow not to vote as their demands not met.

    Villagers to boycott polls in Gandhi bastion
    Amethi has been electing members of Gandhi-Nehru dynasty for several decades [AP]

    Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, India - At least 50,000 people in more than two dozen villages in the Amethi district of Uttar Pradesh, have called for boycotting the upcoming parliamentary elections, in a constituency represented by the scion of the Gandhi dynasty, Rahul Gandhi.

    "We will barricade our roads to bar any politician from entering our villages," Dinesh Singh, a farmer of Sonari village that falls in the constituency, a bastion of Gandhi family for decades, told Al Jazeera on Saturday.

    Villagers say they want their area to become part of the nearby Sultanpur district, which is 10km from the cluster of almost 25 villages. Getting administrative work done is difficult, they say, as the district headquarters of Amethi is "far away".

    "Our demands have never been taken seriously," said Harbhajan Singh of Piparpur village, which has about 8,000 voters.

    "We have gone to courts. The politicians of all shades, including Rahul Gandhi, keep on assuring us help but they just forget us after the elections," Singh, who is leading the protest, said.

    Amethi located in the northern Uttar Pradesh, a politically important state, has been electing members of Gandhi-Nehru dynasty for several decades. The constituency was formerly held by ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi before his assassination in 1991. His son Rahul Gandhi and Congress party vice president has won twice from here in 2004 and 2009.

    Demands ignored

    Anti-corruption party, Aam Aadmi Party's Kumar Vishwas and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s Smriti Irani - a popular TV actress - are challenging Gandhi in Amethi, which is going to polls on May 7.

    People of Lahna, Sonari, Thanapur, Mochwa, Dahinyawa, Bhojpur, Nagardi, Ismailpur, Chandapur and several other villages say their demands have been ignored for several years by Rahul Gandhi and politicians from other parties.

    "We have to change transport three times to reach Gauriganj (headquarters of Amethi) - about 30km from here - to get official papers, land deeds, and administrative work done," Harbhajan Singh said, adding access to Sultanpur is easier for locals.

    "The villagers face serious difficulties. The administration and politicians, who we voted in 2012 assembly elections, have never bothered to fix this issue. We have no other option," says Munna Singh, headman of Lahna village.

    But Yogendra Mishra, district president of the Congress party, told Al Jazeera that the situation was not in their control.

    "These villages have genuine issues but Rahul Gandhi can't do anything," he said. "They should take up the issue with the ruling state government of Samajwadi Party. They are traditional Congress voters and I am sure they won't boycott."

    We have coined the slogan 'Amethi Bachao, Rahul Harao' (Save Amethi, Defeat Rahul), which is a part of our protest posters

    Moin-ud-Din Ansari, Piparpur village, Amethi

    But Dinesh Singh said they will not budge on this point.

    "Until our demands are met we will boycott local bodies, assembly and the upcoming general polls," he said. "If we don't boycott now our demands will remain unmet for another five years."

    These villages have a considerable population of Dalits, India’s formerly untouchables, who account for almost 28 percent of Amethi’s population.

    Despite being a high-profile constituency, the condition of Dalits here still remains miserable, and the last two decades of growth has failed to lift them out of poverty.

    The protesting villagers say boycott is the "only" option left to push for "our genuine" demands.

    "We have coined the slogan 'Amethi Bachao, Rahul Harao' (Save Amethi, Defeat Rahul), which is a part of our protest posters," says Moin-ud-Din Ansari, 38, of Piparpur village.

    "In my home we have 10 votes and none of it will go to any politician. We are boycotting it (the polls)," he told Al Jazeera.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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