In 3 Villages, Residents Refused To Vote. They Wanted A Bridge First

49 seats across six states and two Union Territories are voting today in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha polls

In 3 Villages, Residents Refused To Vote. They Wanted A Bridge First

Two villages in UP and one in Jharkhand announced a vote boycott today

New Delhi:

As 49 seats across six states and two Union Territories vote today in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha election, three groups of villagers -- two in Uttar Pradesh and one in Jharkhand -- have stayed away from the polling booth. Villagers have said they are boycotting the polls after their repeated demands for development yielded no result.

Thousands of residents in Hisampur Marho in Uttar Pradesh's Kaushambi district are at home today as their neighbours in adjoining villages queue up to vote. At a key intersection in the village, posters announcing the villagers' decision to boycott the election have come up. A group of villagers is also protesting at the nearest polling booth.

The village, according to residents, has seen no development and repeated appeals to elected representatives have fallen on deaf ears. "There is no road to the village. We need to cross railway tracks to go anywhere. Children have to cross the tracks to go to school. Nearly a dozen people have been run over by trains, but promises to build an overbridge were not fulfilled," village headman Virendra Yadav said.

With no one from the village turning up at the polling booth hours after the voting began, subdivisional magistrate Mahendra Srivastava and other officials were seen requesting the villagers to vote. But the protesters were firm -- no vote till there is development.

The Kaushambi Lok Sabha seat has been represented by the BJP's Vinod Sonkar for a decade now. Prior to that, Samajwadi Party's Shailendra Kumar was the local MP.

Scenes similar to those in Hisampur Marho were witnessed at Parahaji village in Uttar Pradesh's Barabanki district. Here, the villagers said they would boycott the election because their long-standing demand for a bridge across the Kalyani river had not been fulfilled. The villagers said neither elected representatives nor local administration had responded to their appeal. Subdivisional magistrate Ramashray Verma and other officials urged the villagers to vote, but they refused. The local administration managed to pacify them after they promised to put together a pontoon bridge at the earliest.

A pontoon bridge is a temporary bridge in which floats or shallow boats are used a support a deck for pedestrian and vehicular movement. Such bridges, however, cannot take a very heavy load.

Parahaji village is part of the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency, represented by the BJP's Lallu Singh since 2014. Over the last couple of decades, the Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have also registered victory in Faizabad, but the people of Parahaji kept waiting for their bridge.

Over 600 kilometres away, another group of villagers is boycotting the polls. Kusumbha village is part of Jharkhand's Hazaribagh Lok Sabha seat, which has handed the BJP back-to-back wins since the 2009 election. Over 2,000 voters in the village have stayed away from the polling booths today. By noon, no votes had been cast in two booths.

Deputy Commissioner Nancy Sahay told news agency PTI, "Voters at two polling stations in Kusumbha have boycotted the election. I, along with SP Arvind Kumar, went to the village to persuade them to vote." The police chief said that the villagers had said that they would vote if their demand for a bridge was met.

The officials explained that villagers had asked the National Thermal Power Corporation, which has a plant in Hazaribagh, for a bridge. NTPC, however, had decided to build an underpass. But the villagers say this will make it difficult to access drinking water, essential goods and medical services. The district administration said it has been talking to NTPC on the issue for the past two months.

A voter, Nakul Mahto, told PTI that an underpass would not meet their needs. "We are demanding the construction of a bridge, which NTPC has not fulfilled," he said.