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KumKum Dasgupta, Hindustan Times
Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh, October 30, 2013
The story of Samu Kashyap’s rise in Jagdalpur’s political firmament is this poll season’s most-repeated story. In 2008, then Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited Kashyap’s village and asked the tribals to point to those who studied beyond Class 10. They showed Kashyap, a Mahara, who had studied till Class 12.

The two kept in touch and in time, Gandhi chose Kashyap as the Congress candidate for the Jagdalpur seat over several senior Congress leaders.

These days, the 35-year-old is putting up at his aunt’s house, five kilometres from Jagdalpur town, as his home in Jamawada village is 25km away and difficult to reach after sunset. Kashyap is up against the BJP’s sitting MLA Santosh Bafna, a prominent jeweller from the Jain community, who stays in Jagdalpur.

Though he is a political greenhorn, Kashyap is aware that his humble background is also his USP.

“80% of the voters are either poor or belong to the middle class. They will vote for me because I am one of them,” he told HT.

Kashyap, a neo-Christian, agrees that winning against Bafna will be tough, but he is banking on several factors: he is young, ‘clean’ and can bank on the Mahara-Christian vote, though tribals often don’t vote en bloc for one candidate. The combined strength of his tribe and Christian voters in the constituency is 44,000 of the total 175,000 voters.

“This is for the first time a local tribal has been given a ticket in this seat and people are happy,” said Kashyap.

He feels there are hot-button issues he can raise against Bafna: corruption (Bafna’s name came up in a land scam), the failure of law and order and unemployment.

“The BJP had promised unemployment dole but never gave any. Instead took Rs. 1,000 from the people to fill unemployment forms,” he alleged.