Despite progressive schemes on paper -- UP began giving an old age pension well before the centre thought of it in the 2009-10 budget -- gains seldom trickle down. And yet, it is none of these problems that are the issues in the 2009 general elections. The big issue is Mayawati.
With her eye on Delhi, Mayawati has been seeking vote and support on the basis of work done by her government in Uttar Pradesh in the last two years. However for the opposition, bad governance, deteriorating law and order, sale of government assets, unemployment and farmer's plight during Mayawati's regime are the biggest poll issues.
In other words, the Lok Sabha election in Uttar Pradesh is Mayawati's deeds versus Mayawati's misdeeds.
For the first time in the electoral history of Uttar Pradesh, it is the ruling party in the state that is everyone's target.
Take the issue of law and order. It is not the fact that not a single communal riot has taken place in Uttar Pradesh in the last several years that is the subject of discussion. What is being debated, however, is the Bahujan Samaj Party's nomination of known history sheeters.
Whether it is Ramakant Yadav or Anna Shukla or Mukhtar Ansari, for voters, these are not just names of criminals but the terror and influence they represent.
The Congress, after failing to forge an alliance with the Samajwadi Party, is taking Mayawati to task on this issue at every election meetings. Congress General secretary Digvijay Singh (according to Samajwadi Party, the man to be blamed for preventing a Congress-SP alliance) has told party candidates unambiguously to attack Mayawati and be Mulayam (soft) on Samajwadi Party.
At every Congress meeting, Mayawati is being charged with not utilising central grants, not implementing the schemes announced by the United Progressive Alliance government properly and acting against the interest of farmers, backwards and dalits.
For the Bharatiya Janta Party, which started the election campaign in Uttar Pradesh on the promise of a strong and stable government at the Centre, the issue today is Varun Gandhi and his victimisation by Mayawati.
BJP has also taken Mayawati on for misusing funds meant for the state to create concrete structures. To counter BSP's 'social engineering' formula, BJP too has given 20 per cent tickets to Brahmins.
The biggest party in the opposition, the Samajwadi Party has forgotten everything except Mayawati in the campaigning. The sacking of 22,000 policemen recruited by it, atrocities on its workers, discontinuation of unemployment allowance, pension to those jailed in emergency and 'Kanya Vidya Dhan Yojna' are some of the issue SP is raising in this election.
Mocking Mayawati's claim of capturing power at the Centre, Yadav told Business Standard, "Kaun banayega inhe Prime Minister, Left ne to mana kar diya" (who will make Mayawati the prime minister, the Left parties have already turned down her name).
However the BSP is seeking votes on the basis of the performance of Mayawati's government in the last two years. At her meetings outside UP, Mayawati has been citing schemes and initiatives taken in her state for the welfare of 'Sarva Samaj', in a clear bid to widen her caste base and appeal.
Brushing aside the allegations of giving shelter to criminals, the state chief of BSP, Swami Prasad Maurya said, "BSP is the only party that gives criminals a chance to reform themselves."
It is not that the biggest state in the country has no issues. In the last two years, the power crisis has reached such proportions that there is hardly a village in the state that gets power for over four hours.
Over Rs 1,000 crore is pending as cane dues of farmers on the sugar mills and as a result of this the largest sugar producer in the country has recorded the lowest production -- only 45 lakh tones this year. In the weavers belt 22 people have committed suicide in the last two years as they were unable to repay debts. Lack of work doubled their woes.
Starvation deaths in Bundelkhand and the scarcity of water is not an issue in the election. In the eastern part of the state where over 20,000 children have died due to the dreaded Japanese Encephalitis over the last 10 years, there is no political discussion on who could have prevented this. Even the flood in the eastern UP that has left devastation in its wake in six districts is not a poll issue. All that matter is Mayawati.