Star wars: Bhojpuri actors cross swords in BJP fortress Gorakhpur

By Anand Rai

PTI, May 29, 2024, 4:51 PM IST

Kajal Nishad (L) and Ravi Kishan

Gorakhpur: With two Bhojpuri filmstars in the fray, both the BJP and the SP are relying on star power to bag the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat, considered a pocket borough of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

While the BJP is banking on sitting MP Ravi Kishan, the Samajwadi Party (SP) has fielded actress Kajal Nishad from the seat.

A total of 13 candidates, including Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Javed Simnani, are contesting from the seat, but political experts say the main fight is between the BJP and the SP.

Flaunting his success in the Bhojpuri film industry, Kishan is also wooing the voters by invoking the names of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Adityanath. At the same time, his opponent Nishad is often seen challenging the BJP candidate from the stage in a filmy style.

Nishad has been calling Kishan an “outsider” in Gorakhpur while claiming that she is the “daughter-in-law” of the people and “from your house”. In his response, Kishan has said that as the sitting MP, he has been serving the people for the last five years.

On the campaign trail, Kishan is seen trying his hand at wrestling with the youth and posing for selfies in a bid to strike a chord with the local residents.

With Adityanath’s prestige at stake, the BJP is pulling out all stops to retain the seat and the chief minister often highlights Kishan’s superstar status during his poll meetings here.

Also the Peethadheeshwar of the famous ‘Gorakshapeeth’ (Gorakhnath temple), Adityanath won the seat five times in a row from 1998 to 2014. In the by-elections held after he became the CM in 2017, the SP won from here, however, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP reclaimed the seat with Kishan as its candidate.

In the 19 elections held here so far, including two by-elections in 1970 and 2018, three generations of Gorakshapeeth have won the elections 10 times. Adityanath has tasted success five times, his guru Mahant Avedyanath four times and guru Mahant Digvijay Nath once.

Meanwhile, the SP is determined to breach the BJP bastion like in 2018.

“Our candidate Kajal Nishad will win the election by a margin of at least 1.5 lakh votes,” SP state secretary and former deputy mayor of Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation Ziaul Islam told PTI.

Reacting to some BJP leaders claiming that the BSP candidate will divide the Muslim votes, which will benefit the saffron party, Islam said, “Javed Simnani contested against us in the 2006 municipal corporation elections from Muftipur ward and lost. He got only 312 votes, so you can imagine his fate (in these elections).”

With voting in Gorakhpur scheduled for June 1, caste equations are also being played out.

Gorakhpur has 4 lakh Nishad voters and in the last several general elections, opposition parties have focused on fielding Nishad candidates. In the 2018 by-election, Praveen Nishad, son of Nishad Party President Sanjay Nishad, had won on an SP ticket though, he later joined the BJP.

This time, the BJP too is wooing the community by promoting its ally Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal (NISHAD) president and state minister Sanjay Nishad.

However, Raghuvar Nishad, a 35-year-old farmer, said many from the community have decided to vote for the SP because “if Kajal Nishad does not win the election, then our society will become weak.”

Local businessman Sanjay Shrivastava said, “While the opposition parties have tried to divide voters on caste lines, the people of Gorakhpur are with the BJP due to its development agenda and the influence of CM Yogi.”

There are a total of 20,97,202 voters in the Gorakhpur parliamentary constituency, out of which 11,23,868 are male, 973160 female and 174 third gender voters.

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