This independent candidate’s election campaign comes alive on an ‘arthi’ (bier) which he rides in the battle of hustings. For good measure, he washes the feet of voters in a bid to convince them of his humility.
Rajan Yadav aka Arthi Baba, 34, is trying his luck in Chauri Chaura assembly constituency in Gorakhpur. He runs his election office in the open at the Rajghat crematorium ground here.
This is not his first election. Yadav, who holds a master’s degree in international business management from Gorakhpur University, contested the 2007 and 2012 UP assembly elections unsuccessfully.
Explaining his unique strategy, he says: "The style shows the plight of the common man who struggles to get his rights in democracy.Though he is alive, the system makes him feel dead.”
He filed his nomination as an independent candidate against home minister Rajnath Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lucknow and Varanasi in the 2014 Lok Sabha election but his papers were rejected. He also contested against Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath in the last Lok Sabha poll but lost.
Every morning, he visits voters on his bier which is carried by his supporters. Soon after he is helped off the bier at the voter’s doorstep, he requests people to let him wash their feet with water on a plate as a mark of his respect and love for them.
"I want people to understand that those who can do such a humble act can only work for their welfare and are entitled, in the real sense, to represent them,” he says. He is confident of winning the seat with the support of backward castes, Nishad and Dalits. The Bahujan Samaj Party’s Jai Prakash Nishad holds the seat and has been renominated by his party.
Yadav is the son of a small farmer in the Nandanagar locality here. He decided to join politics to weed out corruption.
“After doing my masters, I too planned to seek a job with a multinational corporation but I chose to become an activist and a politician later to fight for people’s rights. During my school and college days, I was forced to bribe officials to get ration card, income or birth certificate and driving license. This led me to believe that common people will continue to suffer till the system is cleansed. For that, good people need to join politics," he says.