MADAULI (ATRAULI, ALIGARH): Clad in a cheap cotton saree, diminutive Ramwati Devi looks content as she snuggles up on a cot, overlooked by a towering obituary poster remembering her husband and former UP CM Kalyan Singh who had refused to fire at Kar Sewaks over demolition of Babri mosque in 1992.
Devi, who stays at Kalyan Singh’s birthplace at a crumbling home in Madauli in Atrauli tehsil of UP’s Aligarh district, in his fond memory, doesn’t get drawn to any riches or government frills her husband may have left.
Kalyan Singh , known as Babuji in Atrauli, was the CM when Kar Sewaks had brought down Babri Mosque which stood at the birthplace of Lord Ram – where a grand Ram Temple (Bhavya Ram Mandir) is now being constructed for which the foundation stone was laid on August 5, 2020 by PM Narendra Modi.
As the team of The New Indian meets her at this home on the voting day in Aligarh on Thursday, she makes an eyeful contact with the bills pasted outside Kalyan Singh’s room that seeks votes for her grandson Sandeep, the youngest sitting MLA and cabinet minister in Yogi cabinet. Aligarh’s Atrauli went to polls in first phase in 58 constituencies. It’s here that Sandeep is contesting again.
The election is significant for the family for two reasons as its first after the landmark 2019 SC verdict on the Ram Temple and second it comes six months after the death of Kalyan Singh, whose career continues to influence the saffron brigade across UP in rural hinterlands of state.
“I have only two wishes. To see a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya and the image of my husband Kalyan ji in my grandson Sanju (she fondly refers Sandeep as Sanju),” says Devi.
Devi says she and Kalyan renunciated desires to build assets or amass any wealth. She hardly stayed at the Raj Bhawan in Jaipur for a year with Singh, who was serving in Rajasthan as governor between 2014 and 2019, and returned to Atrauli as she would miss their village and home.
She says that the BJP rule in UP after decades of SP and BSP rules in the state was a bigger draw than her husband’s gubernatorial post in Rajasthan.
“No luxury gives me satisfaction. I only stayed in Jaipur for a year and enjoyed stay with him. He was a committed politician and social worker and wouldn’t even get time to be with us due to his devotion for the nation. The only reason I had gone to Raj Bhawan was that I wanted to make his favourite green leafy vegetables and pulses on my own I would rather see my grandson leading the state when he grows up in next 20 years if I am alive. May he carry forward Kalyanji’s legacy,” says Devi.
Kalyan’s remarks — no repentance, no sorrow, no grief — over Babri demolition made years ago when he served as UP CM still reverberate in the village Atrauli.
The villagers those who saw Kalyan growing up over the years, erupt in joy over Sandeep’s candidature.
“There are phases for every work. While Kalyan ji laid the stepping stone for the Ram Temple during his tenure as CM, he also ensured that future governments would bring infra projects like roads, sewage, water and electricity once in power. We are reaping benefits of his commitment,” says Rameshwar Dayal.
Most of them come from non-Yadav OBC community but even Yadavs, Jatavs and Baniyas also insist they stand by Kalyan’s grandson and the BJP for extending Centre benefits like Ujjwala, PMAY, toilets under open defecation free (ODF) villages and Swacch Bharat Mission.
“I am a Jatav but I also see that SP and BSP did consolidation of their votebank on basis of appeasement not for all communities. We have to work for all castes, so I would back BJP,” Yadvendra Singh, who actually comes from Yadav caste.
Even kids remember his each contribution by rote.
“For us, Kalyan ji would be remembered for showing us route to Ayodhya and allowing us to believe God exists. He did good by ensuring he provided safety to those who brought down the mosque. We feel safe and secure now that our traditions and beliefs have got their dues in Modi and Yogi governments. We would want our family to vote for BJP only, says Kavita, a class 12 students.
Her son Rajveer Singh is a sitting MP from UP’s Etah since 2014 when Modi wave swept the Hindi heartland but she neither chose to stay in the national capital at their residence or the bungalow her grandson Sandeep has built in Aligarh.
“It’s the same with Babu ji, who either stayed in Lucknow or at the same village home. He never liked the idea of staying at home and spent his entire life in dedication to welfare of people and of course the construction of the Ram Temple,” says Sandeep, who took Devi to cast vote in Madauli on Thursday.
While Rajveer was busy giving up final touches to the rally address of PM Narendra Modi in Muslim-majority Kasganj — where party’s cadre had lost a young man Chandan Gupta on January 26 in 2018 to gunshots while he was taking out a Tiranga Yatra, Sandeep says he would canvass wherever his party sends him to in the remaining of the eight phases of elections.
Sandeep’s other brother now looks after a hotel Lemon Tree, that the family last year set up outside their residence in Aligarh.
Kalyan Singh and Devi had gone to inaugrate that hotel but neither showed any interest to either live at the property. While Kalyan Singh continued to live in Lucknow before his death last year, Devi says she will never leave Kalyan’s home in village as a respect to mark his contributions towards Ram Temple movement which he grew from there.