With Maneka as candidate, Aonla weighs its options

April 5th, 2009 - 1:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Rajat Rai
Aonla (Uttar Pradesh), April 5 (IANS) Many people in this rural constituency are happy that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Maneka Gandhi decided to shift from Pilibhit to Aonla to fight the general elections - though not because of her election promises.

Voters in Aonla, 350 km from state capital Lucknow, in Bareilly district, say just by dint of her being a well-known face and belonging to the Gandhi family, she can put the spotlight on this predominantly agrarian region.

“We will vote for her because of her personality, not for her promises. After all, she belongs to the Gandhi family,” Mahendra Lodh, a resident, said, well aware that the BJP candidate is the younger daughter-in-law of late prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Located on the rural outskirts, of Bareilly district, Aonla has a population of 1.5 million of which 600,000 are eligible to vote in the general elections.

While 60 percent of the voters here are made up of the Lodh, Rajpoot and Yadav population, the remaining 40 percent are Muslims.

Voters are busy making their own calculations while talking in favour of Maneka Gandhi.

“She is a national leader and will definitely hold some ministry if the BJP comes to power. If this happens, our youths will definitely have employment oppertunites,” feels Jaganath Yadav.

Spread over nearly 100 km, the Aonla constituency shares its boundary with Farooqabad, Badayun, Shahjahanpur and now Pilibhit. Most people are involved in farming.

Maneka Gandhi, a five-time MP from Pilibhit, vacated her seat the for her son Varun Gandhi who is currently lodged in Etah jail for allegedly making hate speeches. She decided to contest from here three months ago.

Her decision to shift to Aonla is also influenced by the fact that after delimitation, a majority of her vote bank was merged with this constituency.

Many here feel that the current MP from Aonla, Kunwar Sarvraj Singh, despite being a popular leader, has only obliged a particular community and those close to him. He was also from the BJP, but he opted for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket soon after Maneka chose to contest from here.

“Barring the minority community and those belonging to his caste (Rajput), he has not done anything for anyone. Although he used to heed our requests after several visits, we still have grudges against him,” said Vijay Saxena, who runs a small furniture shop.

Sarvraj Singh’s habit of switching parties may also cost him dear, Saxena said. He was with the Samajwadi Party before joining the BJP, and now he has joined the BSP.

Aonla also has two major establishments - IFFCO and the Gas Authority of India Ltd. However, both these establishments rarely have any local employed there.

“As both (IFFCO and GAIL) are near Bareilly and also because both have their own housing societies for their employees, barely two to three people from here work there. These companies also do not take any interest in employing local youths,” says Ramcharan Yadav, a farmer.

The Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum also have their depots here, but they too have not employed any locals.

According to people in Aonla, Maneka Gandhi promises development in all here visits to the constituency, but does not promise anything specific.

“We have no demands from her and neither has she elaborated how she will develop Aonla. But it is a matter of pride for us that she has opted for Aonla to fight elections,” said Ramesh Kashyap, a resident of Ram Nagar village block.

“And she is also a Gandhi,” he said.

Maneka Gandhi has been visiting Aonla frequently.

The other candidates include Dharmendra Kashyap of the Samajwadi Party, the sitting legislator from the Sana assembly constituency, besides Sarvraj Singh of the BSP. The Congress has not yet declared a candidate.

However, the voter turnout has been low in this region due to its scattered population. In the last elections, the turnout was about 40 percent.

“However, due to Maneka’s decision to contest from here, we believe the turnout will increase due to her popularity and image,” claims Subhash Patel, the party in-charge of Aonla and a former mayor of Bareilly.

(Rajat Rai can be contacted at rajat.r@ians.in)

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