Road rage and rail wail in Farrukhabad as it talks of change | India News

FARRUKHABAD: Take an ancient town steeped in lore and stories of greatness. Transport it to the modern age but deprive it of meaningful infrastructure. What do you get? Farrukhabad. A city interrupted, teeming with seething people upset at the glorious march of its more fortuitous neighbours and its own unfulfilled aspirations.
Go around Farrukhabad by the banks of the Ganga — once part of a region called Panchala and host to the magnificent sites of Kampil and Sankisa — and a bunch of phrases, not in any particular order, reappear frequently in tirades: roads and trains, Mainpuri highway, lazy Mukesh Rajput (BJP MP up for another election), lucky Shahja hanpur, Zakir Hussain, potato industry, zardozi factory.
Residents of the crowded city with narrow, hard-to-navigate streets, some of whose bazaars seem to be stuck in the 1980s, complain incessantly that they deserve better roads, a double-line rail network. And that UP’s expressways have skirted past them.
They mention a ditty unhappy locals have coined and say, “Look at the thoroughfares connecting centres like Mainpuri, Bareilly. Farrukhabad wale khaye ganna, expressway le gaye Suresh Khanna.” Translation: We were left chewing on sugarcane stalks, UP finance minister Khanna (9 times MLA from Shahjahanpur) took the expressway home.
The people here know how effective connectivity can alter the fate and fortunes of a place.
They will tell you about Kaant, how earlier it was the “main town” with Shahjahanpur as its grubby satellite, but was left behind after the British laid tracks near the latter.

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“Have you seen roads as bad as these anywhere in UP,” asked Mithilesh Kumar, the owner of a hotel in Palla. “We practically have one train to Delhi. Single line. There’s a limit to asking for votes in the name of Modi and Yogi. Our MP has been sleeping for a decade.” Trader Anand Prakash Gupta agreed. “It’s terrible.”
Farrukhabad, which votes on May 13, will witness a fight with BJP’s Rajput, the Samajwadi Party’s Naval Kishore Shakya and the BSP’s Kranti Pandey in the ring. Rajput, who belongs to the Lodhi community that has a sizeable population in the constituency, is gun ning for his third win. Also of interest to voters in this potato belt is the absence of senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid or his kin. For the first time in 40 years, there’s no one from his family in the contest.
Khurshid, a former external affairs minister, became MP from here in 1991. He won again in 2009. His father Khurshid Alam Khan, son-in-law of India’s third president Zakir Husain, was elected from the seat in 1984. Salman’s wife Louise Khurshid served as MLA from Kaimganj assembly constituency in Farrukhabad in 2002.
One of Farrukhabad’s most respected citizens, Dr Ram Krishna Rajput, who runs a law college and has pledged an entire collection of rich and rare artefacts to UP for a museum that may soon come up, said, “The current MP is a nice man who didn’t do much. That can’t be enough, can it?”
The academic, 80, author of 60 books and winner of innumerable awards, added, “I’m not blaming Mukesh Rajput alone. None of the others in the recent past have put Farrukhabad before themselves. Look at our famous zardozi units, our block printers. They all need attention. There is so much potato here, but where are allied indus tries? If people want to change the MP, I’m not against it.”
No discussion about Farrukhabad is complete without mention of its aloo mandi at Satanpur, one of the largest in Asia. Sudhir Varma Rinku, president of the Aloo Arhtiya Association, is both happy and distraught. “I’ll explain why,” he said. “This time in the January-February season, we had a windfall, getting between Rs 1,000-Rs 1,871 per quintal. It’s a 25-year record. There was fabulous demand because Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand wanted more. Usually, we have to make do with Rs 600-Rs700 or so per quintal.”
Rinku went on. “There haven’t been so many weddings in the families of farmers in years. But no credit goes to any of our leaders. Farrukhabad lies neglected. So much potato we produce, but where are the factories that can make use of it? Over 1 lakh people from here work in printing units in Jaipur and other places. Why have they left?”
Some BJP workers confess that the battle for Farrukhabad is tougher this round. “Our MPs have become indolent. They know voting will happen in the name of (PM Narendra) Modi. Plus, there is Yogi (Adityanath) here,” said one at the party’s election office. “But victory is ours. Who wants the age of lawlessness to be back in UP?”
Hriday Kumar, a trader who “sympathises” with SP, said, “Doctor saheb (Shakya, a cancer surgeon) is a “solid candidate”. But the SP has to shed its image of being a party of dangais (troublemakers). That’s his challenge.”


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