Election Campaign Picks Up, But Agra’s Problems Remain As They Were

Election Campaign Picks Up, But Agra’s Problems Remain As They Were

Agra, April 11 (TNA) Will this be a cool election campaign in a hot summer in the Agra district? This is the question doing rounds in Agra, ahead of the polls on May 7. So far there is neither excitement nor the customary buzz in political circles. People are not even talking about politics nor judging the merits or chances of candidates. While the NDA candidates are exuding confidence the opposition contenders in Agra seem wary of the challenge ahead.

The BJP has again nominated its incumbent MPs from Agra city and Fatehpur Sikri, namely SP Singh Baghael, a union minister, and Raj Kumar Chahar, president of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha. In contrast, the opposition has introduced fresh faces, with the latest addition being Pooja Amrohi from the Bahujan Samaj Party. However, are they being taken seriously? Local political analysts are pondering over this question.

"At present, it seems that the opposition parties are participating in the election to either uphold their party unity or maintain their voting share to retain their status as national parties," notes a political observer Paras Nath Choudhary. In the rural areas surrounding Agra, clear indications of strong support for Modi, whether labelled Hindutva or right-wing nationalism, are evident. Despite dissent within the BJP regarding ticket allocation, voters remain unmoved at present. However, these underlying currents could potentially impact the final vote share, fear insiders.

"In a sense, this is a positive development as the traditional caste barriers are weakening or getting diluted, and people are increasingly focusing on national issues," remarked Vikas Pandit, a retired teacher. Local advocacy groups are striving to highlight local concerns, but the response from BJP candidates has been notably tepid. According to Raj Kumar Maheshwari, a shop owner in Sanjay Place, the candidates are not addressing local issues this time around. "The key focus this time is on development, building a prosperous India, national security, and tackling corruption," adds Deepak Jain, a manager at a shoe factory.

However, the list of grievances voiced by residents continues to grow. Agra still lacks air connectivity, similar to several other issues that are yet to be adequately addressed. Agra, despite being the most significant tourist destination in the country for foreign visitors, lacks air connectivity with major cities. The tourism sector presents a set of demands in each election cycle, yet there has been no positive response from any quarter. This has left the residents of Agra feeling disheartened.

Residents are particularly aggrieved by the decision to relocate the international airport from Agra to Jewar near Noida. Other unfulfilled promises include the establishment of an international stadium, the Mughal Museum renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum, the inauguration of an agriculture university, the leather park, the IT hub, and various other demands, including the setting up of a bench of the Allahabad High Court.

At present, it seems that the opposition parties are participating in the election to either uphold their party unity or maintain their voting share to retain their status as national parties.
Paras Nath Chaudhary, Political Observer

Moreover, commitments made in the previous election to potato growers about establishing a potato research center and a Vodka factory remain unfulfilled, despite the Agra region being the country's largest potato producer. Similarly, the aspirations for the development of iron foundries, glass factories, handicrafts, and leather shoe industries in the region remain unaddressed.

In 2015, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari promised to start a ferry service from Delhi to Agra for tourists. But the Yamuna continues to remain dry and polluted. The promised Yamuna Barrage hangs fire, as the state government hardly seems serious about this project, Rajiv Gupta, president of Lok Swar, complains.

“The dry and heavily polluted Yamuna is a clear threat to the Mughal monuments along its banks, including the Taj Mahal,” says environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya. Members of the River Connect Campaign are furious at the continued callous neglect of the holy Yamuna. “Not only UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, but also Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had promised to take appropriate steps to rejuvenate and revive the ancient glory of Yamuna.

Gadkari on three different occasions had assured that ferries would bring tourists from Delhi to Agra and the Yamuna would be cleaned. But the ground reality continues to remain depressing for the time being. Voters are however hopeful that after the elections, the newly elected MPs would take up Agra’s cause more seriously.

It may be mentioned here for the record that the BJP has three MPs, ten MLAs, one mayor, one district panchayat president, and considerable support for the prime minister in Agra.

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