Perks - and predicament - of being a power base

Collective fate of people in Mulayam’s hometown is linked to the leader’s political fortunes

ajay

Ajay Singh | March 3, 2014



There is an uncanny similarity between Agra and Mulayam Singh Yadav's hometown Jaswant Nagar. Both lie on the golden quadrilateral highway project that connects different parts of the country. Agra had found its patron in emperor Akbar while Jaswant Nagar can easily boast of the same status for Yadav.


With his hometown barely 100 km from Agra, Yadav has learnt certain lessons from the Mughals. Like emperors of the medieval India, he has no hesitation in spending public money on building palatial houses, big buildings including an airport that can accommodate Boeing planes and earmarking a ravine forest area for lion safari.

The twin cities of Fatehpur Sikri and Agra were rough and arid terrain with shortage of potable water, but they received abundant water through means that were exploitative and caused human sufferings. In Jaswant Nagar too indices of development could easily match, if not surpass, the most developed parts of the country. The township has many degree colleges, a top-class super-speciality hospital and round-the-clock power supply.

Does that invest Yadav with an aura of invincibility? Obviously, Yadav and his clan have no threat in their pocket boroughs in Etawah, Mainpuri, Budain and certain adjoining areas. Since people of the area feel themselves to be privileged citizens on account of their association with the Yadav family, there is a sense of empowerment among voters. They do not look for an option. In fact, there is none.

But there is a constant lurking fear among people. If Mulayam Singh Yadav's party loses the next elections, the area would lose its VIP status. In the past whenever Mayawati came to power, people here bore the brunt of her political anger. “We hardly had power supply during those times,” said Kripa Shankar who runs a roadside tea stall on the highway.

Even a casual visit to Jaswant Nagar would confirm the privileged status of the township. Yet it brings out an irony of Indian politics where an individual's position determines the collective fate of society. Nothing brings out that irony more clearly than the highway that connects Agra and Jaswant Nagar. Akbar abandoned Fatehpur Sikri, once the capital of his empire, in favour of Agra for logistical reasons. Agra enjoyed the privileged position for nearly a century before Delhi replaced it.

At the moment Agra, despite the presence of the monument of love Taj Mahal, appears to be an urban mess. The internal roads that link the city's interior with the highway are in utter disrepair. Dust and pollution envelops the township which was once most powerful centre of India in the medieval times. In sharp contrast, Jaswant Nagar presents a picture of well laid-out township with all facilities neatly planned to help people. The inherent tragedy in this story is that this hubris of Jaswant Nagar would be short-lived.
 

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