Gorakhpur LS polls: Fierce fight between two actors in Yogi turf - Hindustan Times
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Gorakhpur LS polls: Fierce fight between two actors in Yogi turf

By, Gorakhpur
May 31, 2024 10:51 PM IST

UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s extensive campaign has boosted BJP candidate Ravi Kishan’s winning prospects for second term in a row

Although actors Ravi Kishan Shukla of the BJP and Kajal Nishad of the SP are in the fray from Gorakhpur seat, it is chief minister Yogi Adityanath who has essayed the role of a game changer here by campaigning extensively and pave way for the ruling party’s victory in his home turf. Gorakhpur will go to the polls in the last phase on June 1.

Ramgarh Tal project in Gorakhpur. (HT photo)
Ramgarh Tal project in Gorakhpur. (HT photo)

With development and Hindutva planks firmly imprinted on the ground, the BJP is aiming for complete dominance here from where Yogi won five consecutive Lok Sabha elections between 1998 and 2014. The BJP has reposed its faith in the sitting MP Ravi Kishan Shukla who is locked in a straight contest with SP’s Kajal Nishad who is also an actor of Bhojpuri films.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Shukla had polled 60.52% votes defeating the SP- BSP alliance candidate Ram Bhuwal Nishad by over 3 lakh votes. The Bahujan Samaj Party, which is going solo this time, has fielded Javed Simnani who is likely to dent the Muslim support base of the INDIA bloc.

Shukla depends on the hold of Yogi Adityanath and the development projects launched in the area by the BJP government to sail through in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

With Yogi Adityanath, who is head of Gorakhnath Temple—an important religious place in East U.P. revered by Hindus— leading the party campaign has given boost to Shukla’s prospects of winning the election for the second term.

Yogi has addressed a series of public meetings across the constituency and participated in the road shows organised in support of the BJP candidate. On the other hand, the SP is relying on PDA (backwards, Dalit, minorities) formula to challenge the might of the BJP.

The party hopes that Kajal Nishad, who belongs to dominant Nishad community, will do a repeat of the 2018 bypoll performance to snatch the seat from the BJP. In the 2018 Lok Sabha bypoll in Gorakhpur, the SP had jolted the BJP when SP candidate Praveen Nishad, the son of NISHAD party chief Sanjay Nishad, defeated the BJP candidate Upendra Dutt Shukla. The by-poll was necessitated after Yogi Adityanath vacated the seat when he became the chief minister.

NISHAD party joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) before the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Later, the BJP consolidated its hold over the OBC, winning the 2019 Lok Sabha election as well as bagging all the five assembly seats in Gorakhpur constituency in the 2022 UP assembly election.

NISHAD party chief Sanjay Nishad was rewarded with a ministerial berth in the Yogi government. His elder son Praveen Nishad was elected to Lok Sabha from adjacent Sant Kabir Nagar seat while his younger son Sarvan Nishad is an MLA from Chauri-Chaura assembly seat.

To regain hold over the riverine community, SP’s Kajal Nishad launched an attack on NIISHAD party chief Sanjay Nishad alleging that he was promoting family instead of the members of the community. Campaigning in the Nishad community villages located along the Rapti bank, Kajal said the INDIA bloc will empower the backward community while “the BJP was luring them for votes”.

The promotion of Hindutva agenda among the OBC should be countered with the focus on education and employment, she said. The resentment among the villagers over the low compensation in lieu of their land acquired for the new Gorakhpur township and construction of the ring road around the city has provided an opportunity to the SP to make inroad into the riverine community whose villages are located in the area.

A native of Bhaisaha village, Satyapal Nishad, said, “The state government is trying to acquire our land at a meagre rate whereas private developers are offering high price to the farmers. The SP candidate has assured us that she will fight for the rights of the farmers. We will vote for Kajal Nishad who belongs to our community.”

The scenario was no different in Takia village where a resident Shiv Kumar Nishad said, “The SP candidate has visited all the villages but we have not seen the BJP candidate. His campaign is limited to urban areas or the villages located on the city outskirts. The villagers have made up their mind to support the candidate who stands by them during crisis.”

“The NISHAD party chief had assured us that we will be included in the SC category after the formation of the BJP government in 2022. Two years have passed but we are yet to be included in the SC category. The riverine community here is feeling cheated,” said Bhaj Ram Nishad, another resident of Takia village.

A political observer VK Shahi said, “There are 11 % Muslim and 9% Yadav voters in the constituency majority of whom are supporting the SP candidate. If the INDIA bloc dents the Nishad community who are around 14%, the contest will become interesting.”

Fearing that the SP might make a dent in the Nishad community votes, the BJP has organised meetings of Sanjay Nishad in rural areas of the constituency. His sons Sarvan and Praveen Nishad conducted door-to-door meetings on the last day of the campaign in Pipraich and Sahjanwa areas.

Confident that the BP candidate will win the election, Sanjay Nishad said, “In the 2019 election, the SP had fielded Ram Bhuwal Nishad but the support of Nishads ensured big victory of the BJP not only in Gorakhpur but also in adjoining constituencies. This time too Nishads are with BJP. The INDIA bloc’s attempt to misguide them will prove futile.”

The Nishads settled near forest areas are the support base of the BJP. They have got the benefit of the schemes launched by the government for the Vantangiya community residing in the forest areas.

“Before 2017, we lived in huts. There was no electricity, roads, schools in the villages we had no rights over the land, but post 2017, our villages have undergone a metamorphosis. We have pucca houses and all the facilities like other revenue villages in the state,” said Ram Dayal Nishad, a resident of Rajahi village.

Mumtaz Khan, a social activist based in Gorakhpur, said, “The BJP is getting votes on Yogi factor. The infrastructure development in the region, better road connectivity between urban and rural areas etc. Improvement in law and order has given boost to the economic development.”

“Gorakhpur and adjoining districts are drawing investment in various sectors after the Yogi government neutralised fear of gangsters and extortion,” he added. “East UP underwent a transformation after Yogi Adityanath became the CM. The development and welfare projects launched by the central government were implemented effectively by the Yogi government,” Khan said.

“The people of East UP are aware of the fact that Yogi Adityanath is the game changer for the region and Yogi factor will ensure the victory of the BJP candidate,” he added.

Chandra Bhushan Gupta, a faculty in DDU Gorakhpur University, said, “The district once struggling with poor civic amenities, yearly outbreak of encephalitis and lawlessness has come a long way with the construction of the wide roads, Ramgarh Tal riverfront, malls, zoo, parks, educational institutions and improved facilities in hospitals after BJP came to power in 2017 and the push by CM Yogi Adityanath for the progress of the constituency by launching a slew of development projects.”

“Gorakhpur has emerged as an economic hub in the East UP drawing businessmen from neighbouring Nepal and Bihar. The Gorakhpur Industrial Development Authority (GIDA) is a symbol of economic progress of the constituency with investment in various sectors. The city has train and air connectivity with major metropolitan cities in the country. The people will vote on development, rejecting the caste agenda of the INDIA bloc,” said an entrepreneur AK Agarwal.

“Earlier, the district witnessed migration of the youth in large numbers for jobs. Now with the establishment of new factories and hotels, development of tourism sector and road network connecting far flung villages, the city has provided job avenues to youths,” said Avinash Rai, a student of Gorakhpur University.

“There was anger among the people against BJP candidate Ravi Kishan but the campaign by the CM has neutralised the resentment. The BJP will emerge victorious,” he said. There are 19% Dalit, 14% Nishad, 11% Sainthwar, 11% Brahmin, 7% Rajput, 9% Yadav, 3% Vaishya and 11% Muslim voters in the Gorakhpur constituency.

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