Will ‘Bhojpuri Amitabh Bachchan’ Help Yogi Adityanath Regain Gorakhpur?
Yogi Adityanath had won from the Gorakhpur constituency five times. However, in bypoll in 2017, the BJP suffered a shock defeat.
Now, it’s Bhojpuri superstar Ravi Kishan contesting from the seat. Will he regain normalcy for the BJP?
In a series of politically astute moves to re-establish his supremacy in Gorakhpur and neighbouring districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has managed to convince the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership to field Bhojpuri actor-politician Ravi Kishan from the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat.
Aiming to keep the social coalition of the BJP intact, the party shifted sitting member of parliament (MP) from Gorakhpur, Praveen Nishad, to the neighbouring Sant Kabir Nagar Lok Sabha seat.
Nishad had contested as a joint candidate of Samajwadi Party (SP) -Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-Nishad Party and had scored an upset victory in the Gorakhpur bypoll by defeating the BJP candidate Upendra Shukla. The bypoll was necessitated after Yogi Adityanath quit his Lok Sabha seat following his elevation as the chief minister Of Uttar Pradesh.
In a surprise move, Nishad recently switched over to the BJP.
Before the shock defeat in the bypoll, Gorakhpur was regarded as a BJP bastion or more specifically the stronghold of the Gorakhpur mutt. Yogi Adityanath was elected from the seat in 1998 and followed it up by winning it in the next four elections. Before him, his mentor and guru Mahant Avaidtyanath from the BJP was the elected MP thrice from the seat.
Ravi Kishan, often described as the Bhojpuri Amitabh Bachchan, is the reigning superstar of Bhojpuri film industry. The actor has also forayed in to Hindi films having worked with illustrious filmmakers like Shyam Benegal and Mani Ratnam.
In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Ravi Kishan had joined the Indian National Congress and was fielded from his hometown, Jaunpur, in UP. Despite his huge popularity in Jaunpur, he suffered a humiliating defeat as the Modi-led BJP swept the state with spectacular victory. In 2017, Ravi Kishan switched allegiance to the BJP.
Kishan is not the only Bhojpuri actor roped in by the BJP for contesting the general elections. BJP has fielded another Bhojpuri superstar Dinesh Lal Yadav, popular as Nirhaua, from Azamgarh.
The political observers in the state view BJP’s decision to field a candidate, whose appeal cuts across caste consideration, as willingness on BJP’s part to learn lessons from the bypoll debacle.
Many observers felt that BJP erred in its caste calculation and played with fire by not endorsing Yogi’s proposal of fielding a mutt representative in the Gorakhpur bypoll. Many reports during the run up to the bypoll indicated that Adityanath had wanted a mutt insider to be nominated as he believed that an outsider would dilute the political influence of Gorakhnath Mutt, and that he eventually gave in to choice of BJP president Amit Shah who calls the shots in these matters.
Speculations were rife in state political circle on Shah's inexplicable decision to field Upendra Dutt Shukla, an influential Brahmin leader, instead of a Mutt leader. Theories like Shah wanting to cutdown Adityanath’s stature also gained credence.
Another theory that gained considerable traction was that Shah wanted to placate the Brahmins of the state who have been miffed ever since a Thakur was made chief minister. Yogi Adityanath is a Thakur by birth (his name was Ajay Singh Bisht before he entered into the order of Gorakhnath.)
According to political commentators, the decision to field Ravi Kishan and Pravin Nishad is a smart move by the BJP leadership. Nishad or the boatmen community along with other Most Backward Castes (MBCs) like Mallahs and Kahars constitute little 20 per cent of the electorate in Gorakhpur and Sant Kabir Nagar. With Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and other groups forming nearly 35 to 40 per cent of the electorate, political observers believe that BJP has a good chance to regain its stronghold.
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