Gorakhpur weavers Hafiz Naseeruddin and Ibnul Hasan
GORAKHPUR: The Samajwadi Party has a huge following right behind Gorakhnath Temple. In the weavers' colony, better known as Rasoolpur, residents say that almost 80% will vote for SP.
"Congress might think it has the minority on its side but that is not the case. It did nothing for us when it was in power for so many years. It is only Mulayam Singh Yadav who has helped us in any way. After BJP came to power, it took away all the benefits that the SP government had announced for us," said Hafiz Naseeruddin, who was earlier a weaver but for a few years has been writing for a local Urdu publication.
However, there is also some disquiet against the SP. Ibnul Hasan, who operates four looms to produce terrycot fabric, said that the power subsidy announced by the SP for power looms ended up hurting them more than benefiting them.
"Yadav had announced a flat rate of Rs 142 per machine which now has been done away with by the BJP government. However, the then-government made no provision to ensure that the benefits of this subsidy were limited to small loom owners. Those who had money purchased multiple looms and we lost out on work," said a livid Hasan.
Weavers say that about 70% have sold off their looms since the business of weaving has become unprofitable. Nehmatullah, who sold off his four looms in 2014 and now runs a wholesale business of cold drinks, said that things had been looking down for the business for a while but demonetisation and GST broke the industry's back completely.
"Looms that cost Rs 70,000 are selling for not more than Rs 20,000 right now. We do not have the facility to market our goods and the online systems have been designed for big industrialists. One Chinese machine that costs around Rs 3 lakh but is more efficient is doing the work of five looms. The pay for a meter of cloth 10 years ago was Rs 4.5 but has come down to Rs 3-3.5," he said.
People in Rasoolpur have a clear sense of why they do not want the BJP to return to power.
"They have a different policy on beef here and in Kerala. However, for a small 'commission', the police are allowing slaughtering for beef. We would like that a joint opposition comes together to defeat BJP in 2019. For these polls, Congress has fielded a Muslim candidate so there will be division of minority votes between SP and Congress, which will benefit BJP," Naseeruddin added.