UP legislative assembly elections

Post 83, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

5:45 p.m.: Rachit and I have just returned from the market in the Camp area. As Rachit goes upstairs into Birjinder’s home to give them the vegetarian snacks he has purchased, I join Om Prakash and Bhullan who are standing outside the mill chatting about the just-concluded UP legislative assembly elections. They are in the midst of a heated argument about Yogi Adityanath, who has been nominated Chief Minister of the State barely a few hours ago.

Om Prakash wholeheartedly supports the decision to elevate Adityanath. “He is a baba,” Om Prakash asserts, referring to the Chief Minister’s status as chief priest of the historic Gorakhnath temple. “When he walks by the streets of his constituency Gorakhpur, people halt in their tracks.”

Bhullan shares none of Om Prakash’s admiration for the new Chief Minister of their State. “He can get his a*se f***ed for all I care. The man is full of hatred for others. He’d better watch what he says, or he’ll get himself into trouble,” he snaps.

Om Prakash smiles indulgently.

Post 82, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

6:15 p.m.: I greet Birjinder who sits at the counter to the entrance of the flour mill. He asks me how I have been. I tell his I’ve been slightly unwell.

“Oh no- you should have said. We’d have admitted you in the hospital with my aunt. We could have got a discount for an additional patient,” Birjinder says before bursting into laughter.

Reeling from Birjinder’s morbid sense of humour, I walk into the mill, where Om Prakash and Kalki Prasad operate the grinding machine. Om Prakash and Kalki Prasad are also discussing the results of the UP legislative assembly elections. their conversation went along the following lines.

Om Prakash: The BJP won UP because of Modi. He destroyed his opponents completely.

Kalki Prasad: Yes, with Modi at the helm, they did not have a chance.

Om Prakash: Well, you see, he is after all from the Ahir community [reference to the cowherd caste]. He knows a thing or two about wielding lathis (batons).

Kalki Prasad (vehemently): Arre, no way. Modi is not Ahir. He is Teli [reference to the oil-presser caste]. It has nothing to do with caste. Modi is simply brilliant.

Post 80, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

4:00 p.m.: I meet Rachit outside Kamal flour mill as he makes his way to an electronics shop in the neighbourhood. He informs me that the Bharatiya Janata Party has swept the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly elections. Sounding and looking thoroughly pleased, Rachit hopes this will be the beginning of a new era for that State.

I accompany him to the electronics shop, where Rachit wants to purchase a TV cable. But the shop is out of stock. Rachit then notices a pair of headphones on the counter, and connects it to his mobile to check the sound system. The shopkeeper then connects the headphones to his own iphone and asks Rachit to check out the sound quality. Rachit loves the superior sound quality but cannot not purchase the headphone as he doesn’t have enough money.

Post 75, Abdullahpur Basti, Ludhiana

5:00 p.m.: Rachit and I stand outside Kamal flour mill, chatting. Rachit informs me that his mother has advised him not to purchase an inverter since the electricity supply in Sargana has improved considerably.

5:15 p.m.: Bhullan the vegetable vendor joins us. Bhullan informs me that Lalu Prasad Yadav, former Chief Minister of Bihar has been campaigning in the Uttar Pradesh elections in support of the ruling Samajwadi Party. He commends Yadav’s public speaking skills. Rachit retorts: “What rubbish! The man is ill-mannered and doesn’t know how to speak to a civilised audience.”

Bhullan disagrees vehemently: “That’s not true. How can you say that! When Lalu talks, everyone listens.”

Rachit backs down. “Yes, I suppose you are right. People do listen with rapt attention to what he says.”

Bhullan continues to talk about politics, but from a historical perspective. “Do you know Babasaheb Ambedkar?” he asks, referring to the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution. I nod in affirmation. “He was a great leader. Neither Nehru nor Gandhi could come to terms with his greatness. They did not appreciate his talents simply because he belonged to the Chamar community.”

I try to correct him by pointing to Ambedkar’s origins in the Mahar community, but Bhullan ignores me and continues:

“Ambedkar was highly educated. Far more educated than either Nehru or Gandhi.”