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What Will You Give Me For My Vote?

F. M. Britto F. M. Britto
29 Apr 2024

"Whom are you going to vote for?" I asked Savitri as she was refining her mud floor with cow dung.

"The agent came here to canvass," the Dalit woman responded, "I asked him, 'What will you give me for my vote?'"

"If I have to go to the school to vote, stand in the queue under the hot sun, let them pay me," continued the widow.

I walked to another villager and repeated my enquiry.

Shyamlal signalled the symbol of the party for which he would vote.

"Why?" I was curious.

"I received Rs 100 from the agent."

"For a hundred rupees you are going to sell your vote?" I began preaching to that villager. "Accept the money; but vote for the party or candidate you want," I advised that tribal.

"Oh, how can we do that, Saheb?"

His sincerity ashamed me.

Within the last three months, Rupees 18.86 crores in cash, 92,014 litres of liquor (worth Rs 3.25 crores), 15,683 kg of drugs (worth Rs 31.26 crores), jewels worth Rs 18.12 crores, and other freebies like sarees, blankets, mobiles, and even vehicles worth 38.84 crores were reportedly confiscated in Chhattisgarh. These are allegedly ten times more than the last election and are expected to increase.

Banjare, whose TV is on 24 hours a day in his house, began to tell me of Modi's guarantees. "Modi is our annadada. He would provide free rations for the next five years, build three crore houses for the homeless, and give five lakhs worth of free medical treatment under the Ayushman scheme. He has already increased the subsidy of Rs 200 for gas cylinders (under the Ujjwala scheme) and gives Rs 6000 annually for farmers under the Kishan Nidhi," said this semi-literate villager.

The villager, who works in a private shop in nearby Akaltara town, continued, "As promised, the BJP that has come into power in Chhattisgarh, has already started giving one thousand rupees to women under the Matari Vandana Yojna and gave two months' ration just before the election."

For these Dalits, who are looked down on as "untouchables" by the Hindus, Ram and Ayodhya make no meaning.

But the elderly Ramcharan is disappointed that the BJP won the last State election in December 2023. "Congress had promised that if it comes to power, it will waive all farmer's loans," said the poor farmer.

A government high school teacher, Deepak, said, "The teachers were angry at (the former Congress) Bhupesh Bagel government for not giving the Dearness Allowance (DA) from long back. But the BJP had promised to do it."

"Lok Sabha election doesn't have much meaning like the Assembly election," said another villager, Kannayalal.

Our Congress candidate, Dr Shiv Kumar Dahariya, and the BJP candidate, Kamlesh Jangade, both Dalits, have never visited our villages. This parliamentary seat in Janjgir is reserved for SC.

Preeti was, however, enthusiastic. "I have just filled out the form. Rahul Gandhi has promised Rs. 8500 every month to women, yearly one lakh rupees," narrated the wife of a government primary school teacher, whose father-in-law owns eight acres of fertile fields. When will our Indians look beyond Revadi schemes and vote for the nation's future?

F. M. Britto serves the marginalised in a remote Chhattisgarh village

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