As I walk into the Parsauli village in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district, it’s difficult to recognise the little hamlet that I last visited in 2019 during the Lok Sabha elections. Back then, the villagers had boycotted the polls because they had not seen the construction of toilets for women as was promised by the-then area MP Rahul Gandhi and his team. Leading the boycott was 82-year-old Kamleshdasa, or Amma as she is called in the village.
Already sensing a tough fight from Bharatiya Janata Party’s Smriti Irani, the Congress leaders got into a tizzy and hurried to the area to cajole the villagers to vote. The district magistrate (DM) too was rushed to the spot. But the villagers remained adamant. It was one of the three villages that did not vote during the Lok Sabha elections. This was pretty much a repeat of what had happened here in 2017, ahead of the assembly polls. Clearly, the village had had a difficult relationship with politicians.
Parsauli was just a taste of things to come for the Congress. Rahul Gandhi lost from his family bastion of Amethi in 2019, and Smriti Irani emerged as the giant-killer. But as News18 noticed during its revisit to the village two years later, the political change is not the only change here. Our team spotted special toilets constructed for girls and women. In 2019, Kamleshdasa had told us, “Our girls have stopped going to school because they come back late and the roads are dark and unsafe. They also have no toilets to go to and it’s not safe to go the fields at night when they come back from school.”
This time, there was a marked change in Kamleshdasa’s demeanour. She was beaming as she told News18, “We have a toilet now for every 10 homes, pucca houses have begun to come up and the road to our village has been metalled and it’s no longer slushy.” But the wish list of the locals now includes pucca homes for all villagers, which she is hopeful will become a reality by the end of Irani’s five-year term.
Ravi Sharma, 28, said, “The change under the new MP is apparent. It’s the right of Rahul Gandhi to visit Amethi but we see the change here now. Not just toilets but now if you see there are many pucca homes coming up.”
Undoubtedly the change is palpable. First, Amethi is now connected to the Purvanchal Expressway, which makes it easier for traders and even farmers to transport their goods.
Hari Ram, who sells farm wares at Bachhrawan in Amethi, said, “Frankly, one can’t blame Rahul Gandhi completely for not being able to build these highways. The Congress was only in power at the Centre and it was constantly in a fight with the state governments. In this way, the same government in the state and Centre helps. Today we have highways and flyovers and this helps us to carry our wares and travel.”
Back in Parsauli, the change and development are beyond the toilets. Construction work is in full swing. And many pucca double-storey homes have come up. This is also a sign of the fact that agriculture is not the only work here. Ravi Sharma said, “I am now going to travel to Lucknow and have a job with an IT firm. I have studied and I don’t just want to farm. I send money every month so that we have a brick roof over our head.”
In 2019, Kamleshdasa had confronted Sanjay Singh and his wife Ameeta Singh, who were then with the Congress. She had accused them of coming to Parasuli only during polls. “I had sent a petition to Deepak, the Congress MLC. Two men came, saw the place and never came back. I don’t want to be dragged into politics. But I can see the change now. At least my granddaughter doesn’t have to go to the field at night. Roads are better. Of course, I want more. And I will keep raising my voice,” she said. “I have hope that my voice is being heard this time.”
As we step out of Parsauli village, we spot an OYO hotel, which is new and a wonder. Amethi has never had any decent hotels. But with more such hotels coming up, it’s clear that outsiders want to come and do business here. For the many youths in and around Parsauli village, there is some hope now. And with Rahul Gandhi beginning his campaign in UP with a padyatra (march) in his former family bastion of Amethi, the message is clear. “Voters ka dil maange more” (The heart of voters seeks more). Just legacy is not enough. Promises have to be kept.