Voters in Uttar Pradesh would favour only those talking about the welfare of farmers and polarisation on religious lines would not benefit those indulging in it, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait has said. He said farmers were going through "troubled times" in UP as they were getting less value for their produce and forced to pay "exorbitant" electricity bills.
"The (election) issues are farmers, unemployed youth and inflation for the middle class. But efforts are being made to polarise Hindu-Muslim voters through regular statements on Jinnah and Pakistan. But this will not work out for those doing it and will instead harm them," Mr Tikait said on Friday.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had hit out at the Samajwadi Party and its chief Akhilesh Yadav, calling them supporters of Pakistan and "worshippers of Jinnah". Yogi Adityanath's remark ostensibly refers to Mr Yadav's recent statements on Pakistan and its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
On whether he would campaign against the BJP, the Bhartiya Kisan Union leader, who was a prominent face of the year-long protest against the now-withdrawn three farm laws, said he had no such plans.
"I am not a politician. I stay away from political parties. I only talk about the issues of farmers and urge people to question their leaders. I will continue to raise the issue of farmers," he said.
"In UP, farmers are going through troubled times. Not only farmers here get less value for their produce, they are also forced to pay exorbitant rates of electricity," he added.
He declined to forecast who would win in UP this time. "I cannot comment on where the election is headed or which party will come out victorious. However, the farmers I meet are not happy with the current state of affairs. What further troubles them is that their children have no avenues of employment. I think the farmers and locals will keep these things in mind when they vote," Mr Tikait said.
Elections will be held in seven phases in UP starting February 10. Counting is on March 10.
Mr Tikait said people should keep an eye on the activities of district magistrates and police officers during counting of votes as "these officers may favour the government in power."
On how the BJP would perform in western UP after the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Samajwadi Party alliance, Mr Tikait said, "I think voters will favour those who are not against farmers. They will support those who are not polarising Hindu and Muslim voters. People will favour those who talk about their issues and not only about Pakistan and Jinnah".
Mr Tikait, who is from Muzaffarnagar district in western UP, said he was pursuing the Lakhimpur Kheri case in which eight people, including four farmers, died on October 3. They were allegedly hit by an SUV carrying BJP workers. The other four included two BJP workers, allegedly lynched by angry protesters. Union Minister Ajay Mishra's son Ashish is the main accused in the case and is currently in jail.