Voter turnout in Lucknow, the heart of Uttar Pradesh is always low. For the first time voting was higher than before. In the past, 55 percent of registered voters voted while this year the figure climbed up to about 60 percent.

What made the laid-back, nawabi-natured and politically indifferent Lakhnauwala emerge out of the comfort of his home and make it to the polling booth, I wonder?

According to the Election Commission 60 percent polling was recorded in 59 Assembly constituencies across nine districts during the fourth, of the seven-phase elections in UP held last Wednesday.

Perhaps it is the do or die pressure of voting out those spreading insecurity in the city? It could be an attempt to silence the hate-spewing politics of the day before the cultural and social fabric of the city is ruined beyond repair. The fear of that life threatening possibility may have convinced voters to do their bit at the ballot box, and to make a difference.

Who knows?

For the moment it is a positive sign that more people have voted, hopefully against attempts to create bad blood between citizens, in this city of poets where people have been living for centuries without deliberately and drastically wanting to disturb the way of life of others.

Instead of providing jobs to a ballooning constituency of unemployed youngsters, or addressing the problems of the majority whose pocket is unable to keep pace with the soaring prices of even essential commodities like cooking oil and cooking gas, politicians concentrate on dividing the people to rule the state.

The single thought on the mind of citizens is to vote the ruling party back to power for the next five years, or not? Half the state has already voted and the last phase of voting is on March 7. The final verdict will be known only on March 10 once all votes for all the 403 state assembly seats are counted.

The Joshis

Lucknow has a sizable population of people originally from the hills of Uttarakhand. The Bahuguna family belongs to the same community. Mayank Joshi is the grandson of Congress strongman Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna. Mayank’s mother Rita Bahuguna was a long time Congress member till she joined the BJP. She was hoping that Mayank would contest from her Lucknow Cantonment constituency where the population of Uttrakhandis is sizable. The BJP did not give Mayank a ticket.

On the eve of polls, Mayank was photographed with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and is believed to have canvassed for the SP candidate in the Lucknow East constituency of Sarojninagar. It is to be seen which way the Uttrakhandi vote will swing?

Traditionally, the Uttarakhandis in Lucknow are die hard supporters of the BJP, but they are also friends of the Bahuguna family.


In far-away Lakhimpur Kheri, the Union minister of state for home affairs Ajay Mishra Teni was advised not to ask for votes in his constituency for fear of a backlash from local voters. He spent a few days in his constituency indoors, and was escorted by a fleet of heavy security when he stepped out of the house to cast his vote. The vote of the Brahmin community is important to the BJP in this area.

Teni is a Brahmin who is in trouble after his son Ashish was jailed for his involvement in the blood curdling violence that took place in the area last year. Eight people, including four farmers and a local scribe were mowed down by a speeding car.

On the eve of the elections in UP, Ashish was given bail. The opposition parties and the farmers want the government to sack Teni but fear of losing Brahmin votes prevents the BJP from taking action.

This is one of the worst incidents of violence that UP has witnessed in recent times. In the last few years the list of other incidents of public lynching of people by blood thirsty mobs, and the rape of women is long.

Bulldozer Sarkar

“Bulldozerwali sarkar toh aapki hai. Bulldozerwali zaban toh aapki hai,” an SP supporter responds to accusations that a vote for the SP is a vote for goondaraj. He says yours is a government of bulldozers. Yours is the language of bulldozers. Today the force of law in UP has been turned on its head as the law of force.

Violence is in the air. The police is encouraged to thoko civilians, and to shoot demonstrators in the leg. The rule of law is thrown to the winds as mobs collect on the streets to punish and to kill suspected beef eaters. Muslim men in love with Hindu girls are assaulted. The roadside food stalls of mostly Muslims are attacked, and vegetable vendors and those peddling trinkets are stopped from practising their trade. Self-confessed nationalists have been allowed to take over public spaces in a desire to empower themselves overnight by attacking citizens they think are enemies of society.

The language used even by those in power is vicious, full of anger, hate, and a scary sense of national pride.

The time has come for the voter to decide whether they want to return to times when life was a little more gentle, or not?

Tit for Tat

Public life is volatile today. If not corrected it will surely come home to roost. A glimpse of that eventuality was witnessed at a rally in Gonda when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tried to address an election rally. The former chief minister of UP was not allowed to speak by crowds chanting slogans non-stop, and demanding jobs in the army.

All that the minister was able to say was hogi hogi (will be done) in the midst of cries of sena bharti chalu karo (give jobs in the army), and hamari maangein poori karo (fulfil our demands).

A job in the army has been a dream job for young men in rural areas for eons.

Muslim Voter

A group of concerned Muslims met on the eve of polls in Lucknow to reiterate that they should cast their vote with great responsibility.

Dr Ammar Anis Nagrami, general secretary of the All India Muslim Intellectual Society hosted a meeting at his Deohri Agha Mir residence in the old part of the city that was attended by politicians, media people, clerics and the intelligentsia. Speakers agreed that the safety of members of the Muslim community is a matter of concern today.

Ravidas Mehrotra, SP contestant from Lucknow Central was present at the meeting along with SP national spokesperson and Ashoka University professor Ali Khan Mahmudabad. The professor said that the ruling party has been trying to create a wedge between citizens and that some Muslims are even helping right wing politicians to widen divisions in society.

The worst kind of friends are those who are enemies in disguise. No matter how sweetly it addresses Muslims, the BJP is not a well-wisher of any Muslim sect, he said.

When mobs are let loose in public places they do not distinguish between a shia Muslim and a sunni Muslim. Violence is violence. The professor added that Muslims should cast their vote in Lucknow, and all over UP with great care.

Dr Kalbe Sibtain ‘Noori’ educationist was hopeful that Muslims all over UP will cast their vote according to their conscience, and not to strengthen communal forces.

Social activist Tahira Hasan doubts that voters will heed the advice of clerics. She said that shia Muslims are inspired by the life and values of Imam Husain, the younger grandson of Muhammad, Prophet of Islam. The martyrdom of Husain and his message of social justice guides shia Muslims through difficult times and not the diktat of narrow minded and self-centred clerics.

Last Word

The last word is reserved for 4PM, the popular YouTube news channel hosted by Sanjay Sharma that recently vanished from cyberspace without warning. Lucknow’s Sharma was overwhelmed by the solidarity showered upon him by thousands of his followers and fellow scribes, proving a popular saying true in this part of the world, that it is never easy to stop the flow of water or the flow of news.

paani aur khabar ko koi nahin rok sakta.

Sharma is back on air and twitted that those responsible for the suspension of 4PM’s YouTube account should know that attempts to quell freedom of press always invariably fail. “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot stop Spring from coming. We will continue to rise and continue to report fearlessly.”

All power to you Sharma Ji.