Farrukhabad : The global jaunts of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in the furtherance of Indian diplomacy have cut little ice with voters in the Farrukhabad Lok Sabha constituency, coming as they do in the height of the election season, with many wondering: “What have we gained from your foreign trips? We are still without roads, sewers and jobs.”
The question is legitimate if one looks at the total lack of infrastructure in this one hick town where one seems to be in a time warp. The contrast is stark when one looks at the development in surrounding Mainpuri, Kannauj and Badaun, strongholds of the Samajwadi Party that rules Uttar Pradesh.
“When it rains, the gullis (bylanes) are flooded waist-high. We fold our trouser and balance it on our head as we walk or cycle,” said a man who works at a ‘zardozi’ embroidery factory.
The old houses are in desperate need of repair and renovation, the narrow lanes with open drains and fly-infested ware being sold from hand carts are not only a dismal sight but also tell the story of the low economic status of the people here.
The only glitter, as it were, to be found in this town are the heaps of gold and silver thread stored in embroidery units operating from almost every home. Farrukhabad, once a big textile handprinting centre, is now the hub for ‘zardozi’ and ‘dabka’ work which adorns bridal and festive wear. ‘Zardozi’ feeds the owners and workers of embroidery factories and is the largest provider of employment here.
Haji Muslim Khan of Roshan Enterprises, manufacturers and wholesalers of lehangas and sarees, feels that Khurshid has done little to boost Farrukhabad’s ‘zardozi’ industry.
“Our stuff has to be sent to stores in Mumbai and Delhi but there is barely any train connectivity. There is a weekly connection between Delhi and Farrukhabad. Traders don’t come here because it is so difficult to travel. Zardozi is the lifeline for the people of Farrukhabad. He should do something to help this trade instead of distributing chooza (chicks) for rearing,” Khan told IANS.
Distribution of chicks and solar lanterns is part of the initiative undertaken by the Dr. Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust run by Khurshid and wife Louise for the welfare of the disabled.
“We need opportunities for employment, not charity,” added Tanveer, who is learning the zardozi craft and gets about Rs.100 for an eight-hour shift. “Salman Khurshid has no time to look at our problems and woes. His wife is busy renovating their ancestral home in Kayaamganj, which is about 30 km from here. She camps here only during election time.”
Khurshid is pitted against Mukesh Rajput (BJP), Jaiveer Singh (BSP) and Rameshwar Singh Yadav (SP). Sachin Singh Yadav (Independent) is an SP rebel who is playing the spoiler for the party.
Khurshid finds the negative response from his voters frustrating. “They just don’t comprehend what I am trying to convey to them. I quoted a couplet ‘Meri pairoon mein ghungruu bandha do, phir meri chaal dekhna’ to say that they should give the Congress the majority in the state and the centre and then they should see what wonders can be done for them. But they missed the point.”
He is also trying to tell his voters that providing civic amenities and employment opportunities is the responsibility of the state government and not the centre, of which he is a part.
Khurshid is depending on the Muslim vote and a split in the Yadav vote to secure him a win.
“We are angry with Salman, but we have no choice,” Shadab, who runs a grocery store, told IANS.
Muslims account for about 13 percent of the 1.3 million voters in Farrukhabad ( which has a population of about two million), while the rest are Thakurs, Yadavs, Aggarwals and Guptas. “The Thakurs along with Guptas, Lodhs and Aggarwals will vote for the BJP. The Muslims will vote for the Congress,” predicted a man who only gave his name as Atul and who owns the lone air-conditioned guest house in Farrukhabad.
Farrukhabad goes to the polls April 24 in the seventh phase of the 10-phased polls that began April 7 and will conclude May 12. The results will be declared on May 16.
(Rashmi Saksena can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)