BJP's list of Lok Sabha candidates for eastern UP shows accommodation, winnability and changing loyalties can coexist
BJP, on Monday, announced a list of seven candidates for eastern Uttar Pradesh and it has an interesting mix of names that shows how loyalties of contestants change, if not overnight, at least over the course of elections
The most anticipated name in the list was that of the BJP candidate for Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency
The BJP has decided to field singer-actor Ravi Kishan as its candidate from the seat
Kishan had earlier contested the Lok Sabha election in 2014 on a Congress ticket from Jaunpur, but was defeated by a huge margin
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday announced a list of seven candidates for eastern Uttar Pradesh and it has an interesting mix of names that shows how loyalties of contestants change, if not overnight, at least over the course of elections. Also, it confirms the age-old adage that "politics is the art of the possible" and of accommodation.
The most anticipated name in the list was that of the BJP candidate for Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency. BJP's firebrand leader and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had won the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha election five times in a row since 1998. Before him, Mahant Avedyanath had won the seat first in 1971 and then for three consecutive terms from 1989 onwards. And before him, Mahant Digvijaynath had won the seat in 1967. All of them were high priests of the Gorakhnath Math from where Adityanath also comes.
However, in a major shock and embarrassment for the BJP in general and Adityanath in particular, BJP lost the seat to the Samajwadi Party — that had the support of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the by-elections held in 2018 after Adityanath was made the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. And the man who defeated the BJP's candidate was Praveen Nishad, son of Sanjay Nishad, founder of the Nishad Party that has now entered into an alliance with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
And now the same Nishad who challenged the invincibility of BJP and Adityanath in Gorakhpur is being fielded by the BJP from Sant Kabir Nagar in place of its sitting MP Sharad Tripathi, who was in news recently when a video of him thrashing a BJP MLA with shoes went viral.
Coming back to Gorakhpur, the BJP has decided to field singer-actor Ravi Kishan as its candidate. Kishan had earlier contested the Lok Sabha election in 2014 on a Congress ticket from Jaunpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, but was defeated by a huge margin by the BJP's Krishna Pratap. While Pratap secured 3,67,149 votes, Kishan stood a distant sixth with 42,759 votes. Three years after the defeat, Kishan left the Congress and joined the BJP in In February 2017.
Following the defeat at the by-election in 2018, BJP suffered an embarrassment as it was pointed out that Adityanath could not even defend his home constituency, as BJP also lost Phulpur Lok Sabha constituency, which was vacated by Keshav Prasad Maurya, who became deputy chief minister in Adityanath's government.
Keeping that in mind that the BJP was looking for a candidate who would secure its chances of winning, in the by-election, the BJP fielded its regional president Upendra Dutt Shukla who gave a tough fight to Samajwadi Party candidate Nishad and was defeated by a short margin of around 22,000 votes.
Shukla represented the Brahmin caste that has a considerable presence and influence in district evident from the tough fight that Shukla gave the Samajwadi Party candidate, in spite of BSP backing the SP candidate. His loss was attributed to certain factors like infighting among local BJP cadres. Kishan whose full name is Ravi Kishan Shukla is also a Brahmin and this is one of the important reasons for fielding him.
Kishan's name was doing rounds for some time along with those of Nishad and Mahendra Pal Singh who is a sitting BJP MLA from Pipraich.
However, the Samajwadi Party-BSP alliance has fielded Ram Bhuwal Nishad, who is a well-known Nishad leader of the region and was fielded by BSP in 2014. Fielding Praveen Nishad would not have helped BJP as his joining hands with the BJP was not taken well by his community. Also, Gorakhpur has an interesting history of having sent only Rajput or Brahmin candidates to the Lok Sabha since Independence, with just one exception (2018 by-election) and hence is considered as an 'upper caste' or 'savarna' seat.
In this context, fielding a Bhojpuri 'star' like Kishan from a place that has a huge Bhojpuri-speaking population is no less than a safe bet for the BJP. Another interesting aspect of the list is how accommodation is ensured by the political parties. This is evident from the fact that while the BJP has denied a ticket to Sharad Tripathi, it has decided to field his father Ramapati Ram Tripathi from Deoria.
Ramapati Ram Tripathi is a senior BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh and is widely respected by the Brahmins of the state. The fact that he is a former president of the BJP's Uttar Pradesh state unit and his organisational skills will also be useful during the election. Also, he has been fielded in place of senior BJP leader and former Union minister Kalraj Mishra, who is the sitting MP from Deoria.
After Mishra announced his decision to not contest tge Lok Sabha election in March this year, the BJP was looking for a senior leader who could replace him without upsetting the local party workers. And by deciding to field Tripathi, BJP has created a win-win situation for itself and has shown how arithmetic, winnabilty and accommodation can all be ensured with some acceptance of shifting loyalties and forgetting bitter defeats.
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