Ground Reports

Tracking Dinesh Pratap Singh's Efforts To Put Raebareli Outside A Family’s Map: Ground Report

Sumati Mehrishi

May 19, 2024, 04:20 PM | Updated May 20, 2024, 12:00 PM IST

Modi supporters in Raebareli
Modi supporters in Raebareli
  • BJP strategises to thwart Gandhis' parliamentary path via Raebareli in the 2024 elections.
  • The lack of celebration of Raebareli’s cultural identity pricks BJP's Raebareli candidate Dinesh Pratap Singh. 

    He also doesn’t seem to be flattered with the fact that the people of Raebareli are aware of all the names of the members of a particular family that wins Raebareli, but are unaware of the name of Maharishi Parshuram’s father.

    “Rishi Jamadagni” — shouts a sole voice in the gathering at Rahi village nukkad sabha when Singh quizzes them gently. “You would know all the names of members of one political family, but not the name of the father of Maharishi Parshuram. I am aware of that and I am working to make you celebrate your own culture,” he pokes.  

    Singh seems to be going for a ‘man to man’ marking and match mode in the political arena. 

    Dinesh Singh at a nukkad sabha
    Dinesh Singh at a nukkad sabha
    Singh addresses a 'nukkad sabha'
    Singh addresses a 'nukkad sabha'

    Raebareli, which would be like any other two constituencies meant to propel the Gandhis to the Parliament (Amethi previously and Wayanad currently) in the pre-2024 scenario, now stands as that prime gateway that the BJP is trying to block and lock. 

    Amit Shah has delivered not one but two booster doses to Singh. One, his rally held in Raebareli last week. The second booster came on 17 May when in the presence of Amit Shah, former MLA from Samajwadi Party Manoj Pandey joined the BJP with several block pramukhs. The rally was held for Singh and Smriti Irani — BJP’s candidate and sitting MP from Amethi. 

    'Pallu' power - women supporters at Amit Shah Rally
    'Pallu' power - women supporters at Amit Shah Rally

    Fighting to defeat, not for consolation 

    Watching this development from Bachhrawan Vidhan Sabha is a senior leader from the BJP Anubhav Kakkar. 

    Bachhrawan’s MLA is from the Samajwadi Party. Kakkar’s task is to help make Singh beat the Congress-SP alliance from this Vidhan Sabha. He is confident of achieving it. 

    He said, “BJP trounced the SP in the local panchayat elections recently. Things look even better owing to the trust that people have in Modi ji’s work and Dinesh Singh ji’s work. Amit Shah’s booster doses will be of help.” 

    In Harchandpur, another Vidhan Sabha segment with a Samajwadi Party legislator, prabhari Janmajaye Singh has aimed to help Singh beat his rival by crossing the difference of nearly 26,000 votes.

    “Last time when Dinesh Singh ji lost, the difference from Harchandpur was of nearly 26,000 votes.” At that time, Singh was new to the BJP after his shift from Congress. “He then worked in the constituency. He spent nights and days travelling every village and meeting the people of bhajan-keertan.

    He would meet adhikaris and discuss matters pertaining to the different zones. All that has made a big difference. At the Congress meeting in Harchandpur, the Gandhis addressed outsiders whereas Singh’s own nukkad sabha saw some 10,000 people.” 

    Rural support is strong for Singh
    Rural support is strong for Singh

    In 2014, Sonia Gandhi’s vote share in Raebareli was 63.8 per cent. In 2019, it shrank to 55.78 per cent. When Dinesh Singh fought in 2019, his vote share was 38.5 per cent against the previous vote share of the BJP – 21.05 per cent. Singh is not playing on any such consolation this time. He is contesting to beat.  

    When sections of the mainstream media ignored Dinesh Singh's challenge to Rahul Gandhi to debate with him, they missed several stories that make the contest of Raebareli. Singh is an unconventional candidate from a conventional political background. 

    During weeks of his campaign, Singh keeps Raebareli fighting to Raebareli — before or without riding on the back, works and achievements of Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath. He keeps it family versus family. 

    Son and soil 

    Singh, too, has a popular political lineage. His home “Panchvati” (named after the members of the joint family that live together) is a destination of emotional importance for many people of Raebareli.

    “Panchvati” is that address where people of Raebareli turn up any time when they have problems or want redressal of issues. The doors are open. Singh is available. 

    It is perhaps this reason why Singh's main opponent in Raebareli has not accepted his challenge to debate with him, yet.

    In a post shared on social media, Singh said: “By repeatedly asking Narendra Modi to debate with him, Rahul Gandhi is trying to establish himself as a leader of that stature nationally. This is when he has no importance even against a simple sevak such as Dinesh Singh of Raebareli. I ask Rahul Gandhi to debate with the 'chhota karyakarta' of Narendra Modi. Come to Raebareli. You are welcome. I will offer you tea. The nation will see whether a small karyakarta of Narendra Modi bears more mettle to serve the nation than you.”

    In his speeches in Raebareli, he alleges that Sonia Gandhi is not present when the sons of Raebareli are in pain — not when the train derailed at Bachhrawan or when soldiers hailing from Raebareli sacrifice their lives — but is present for her own son's nomination for contesting the Lok Sabha poll. 

    According to Singh, his opponents are miscounting years of service to Raebareli and the number of constituencies they ought to call “home." 

    Family values for audience that’s family 

    In chaste Purabiya, he mulls over each correction during his speeches: “pratyaashi ki behnin khud nahin janat (the candidate’s sister herself does not know) whether the number of years they have served Raebareli is 10 or 20.

    Supporters engrossed in Singh's speech
    Supporters engrossed in Singh's speech

    He adds: “She says their ghar parivar is in Raebareli. Her brother has named different constituencies as their family. When he reaches Amethi, he says that their home is Amethi. From Amethi when he reaches Wayanad, he says their home is Wayanad. When they return from Wayanad, they cite some other constituency as their family.”

    Singh addresses his opponent as “Italy ke maharani ke bitwa.” “Jitne baar jeeti, tabho bitiya mahatari, do jane rahin. Na bitiya ka seva mili aur na mahatari ka seva mili” (whenever she won, there were two people but neither came to serve Raebareli) — this sentence has two dimensions. One, that whenever one family member won Raebareli, the daughter and the mother showed presence, but the services of both were absent. The other dimension is the conspicuous absence of the third member.  

    Singh uses language to state his exclusivity to Raebareli clearly. “Kya guarantee hai ki 4 June ke baad kono aur jila ka na parivar bana lein? Eke koi guarantee hai?” (what is the guarantee that after 4 June they wouldn’t term another district as their ‘home’?)

    Singh’s speeches are aimed at telling the voters that he is before them seeking votes only after assuring them of his personal stability in Raebareli, familial roots in the constituency, seriousness towards accepting the voters as well as the constituency as his family, and the continuing and constant access to him. 

    Bichhauna uthhaye gayeen atariya pe, tab tak pataa chala bijli aayge gayeen. Fir bichhauna neehe lekar aayeen tab tak pataa chala fir bijli chali gayee. Fir ataraiya par lekar pahunchi, raat din upar neeche upar neeche hoat raha. (You would take your beds to the terrace and just then power would resume. By the time you collected the bed and came down again there was a power cut. This was a daily occurrence).

    “Have you seen such days or not? Tell.”

    Dinesh Singh's campaign and task — both are underrated within the BJP. He is internalising every aspect of his campaign and politics to Raebareli.

    “When MPs work for the constituency, the samaj itself receives the 'sukh' of good governance. But such is the 'durbhagya' of Raebareli that with an exception to two terms in Raebareli, its people have not had the opportunity to experience the bliss of good governance, and sincerity. Their MP has not been able to deliver the gifts of good governance.” 

    He is not only campaigning for his party and himself, highlighting his own availability and access, talking about the development-achievements of Modi sarkar, but also trying to awaken the voters about why they should have expectations from members of parliament, what expectations to have for Raebareli and their own lives.

    “Even if an MP is expected to make roads and even if that task is not done, you can always turn back and raise questions and tell the MP that he will not be voted back to power.”

    To be fair to Singh, this was a job not meant for him alone to steer. The counterproductive emotional attachment to one family despite the latter's neglect and absence from the constituency should have been a topic or persuasion for the BJP during the last five years, just as it was in Amethi between 2014 and 2019.

    He tells people that the work of Narendra Modi is ongoing. He names them: Raebareli to Ayodhya four-lane, Raebareli to Prayagraj four-lane, Raebareli to Kanpur four-lane, Rs 13,500 crore worth of ring road phase II, Ganga Expressway, the building of the new Raebareli station, a smooth entry and exit in Latapur on the lines of the one at Mata Manasa Devi and other such works.

    Itne kaam chal rahe hain. Agar paisa bachat na hotai, tohri gaadhi kamai par dakaiti padat hotai, to itna kaam tohka Raebareli mein hot dikhai padte? Congress ke kaal khand mein to kabhi nahin the.” (So much work is going on. If there was actually a loot would you see so much work in Raebareli? We never saw such work during Congress' time).

    The sweetly acerbic language of the man known as "once a Congress loyalist" and now a Yogi minister churns out reminders: "2G ghotala hoat raha, 3G ghotala hoat raha, jijaji ghotala bhi hoat raha hai. Yeh sare ghotalon ka paisa videshon mein jama hota thha aur Modiji ke haathon mein ab aapki gaadhi kamai desh kaamon mein vikas mein kharch ho rahi hai."  (There was 2G scam, 3G scam, and even the Jijaji scam. The proceeds of all these scams was deposited in foreign countries. In Modiji’s time, your hard-earned money is utilised for development).

    Campaign gains pitch
    Campaign gains pitch
    Modi's messaging in Raebareli
    Modi's messaging in Raebareli

    Raebareli An ignored story

    The high point for this author in covering Raebareli in 2024, as was in 2014, is the making use of the railway connectivity between Raebareli and Amethi to be able to go back and forth to understand the dynamics of change, or to observe the change in the election heat. This is because Raebareli remains the centre of Gandhi-dominance. 

    In 2014, when the BJP and the AAP landed with two candidates with appeal, signs of a possibility in bringing change to the political landscape were sprouting. It was the BJP candidate who remained consistent and worked on the constituency. Nothing of that sort really happened in the BJP outside the Singh family itself.

    It is important to bring Amethi into perspective when writing about the BJP's campaign because Amethi has been able to wrangle itself out of emotional attachment to a single family.

    Congress-supporting voters in Raebareli thank the Gandhi parivar for a handpump installed or a chabootra made at a village nukkad. The BJP-supporting voter in Raebareli talks keeping Amethi in the background. It talks about not a mere “handpump installed decades ago,” but of the nation, national security, regional and national infrastructure, state-centre partnership, women-safety, and domestic transformation.

    Here are the recurrent points that emerge for BJP supporters in Raebareli in 2024:

    1- “Winnability and winning are two different aspects. The one having won five terms so far despite neglecting the constituency or remaining absent from it is not serving the constituency even by contesting. In general, it is a disservice to democracy, their party, as well as the constituency.”  

    2- “Congress ‘ki ghulami’ is a hindrance to development. Though there are voters who want change, it is the other section of voters that is compelling the winners from a family to take Raebareli for granted.”

    3- “Amethi and Raebareli stand as "contrasts" today owing to the change in MP representation in Amethi. The same can be achieved in Raebareli.”

    4- “Dinesh Pratap Singh is always accessible, always available, responds to the sad and happy times of voters in the constituency, is a generous listener, treats the people of Raebareli like his own family, and so, is a perfect person to represent Raebareli as a saansad.”

    5- “Singh as BJP's and Modi's representative knows the Raebareli ropes. He is a good candidate to propel Raebareli to better change, multipronged-development and cultural upliftment which in turn will uplift voters.”

    6- “The BJP should have been more aggressive and made an early start with Singh in establishing him as the candidate challenging the Gandhis the second time.”  

    7- “Raebareli needs development, needs better education, healthcare and local infrastructure. It needs more investment — political and financial.”

    8- “Modi has done so much for the nation, he deserves to win in Raebareli and improve it.” 

    9- “Sonia Gandhi was sure of losing from Rae Bareli (in the event of candidature in 2024), so chose to ‘run to Rajasthan for Rajya Sabha'.”

    From voters on the ground who support the Congress, here are the vital and recurrent points that emerge in 2024:

    1- “Gandhis have been serving Raebareli. There is familiarity. “Wo puraane hain. There are roads named after them.”

    2- “Gandhis will defeat Singh. Raebareli belongs to them.”

    3- “Gandhis have done a lot of work for Raebareli. BJP and Modi have done nothing for India.”   

    4- “Rahul Gandhi might lose Wayanad, so Raebareli must help him get to Parliament by making him win from Raebareli.”

    5- “Bring us any leader to oppose the Gandhis in 2024, we will still vote for the Gandhis. The Gandhis will win even this time.” 

    BJP workers in Congress bastion
    BJP workers in Congress bastion

    The patriarch from Panchvati 

    At 8 am, people wanting to meet Singh begin to assemble at his residence. At 9 am, Singh reaches a newly-built office space and meets them in the privacy of his staff and hears them. Among them is a person who describes himself as a "traditional Congressi."

    Dissatisfied with the performance of the Gandhi-raj in Raebareli, he now wants to help Singh by stitching together Mahila samoohs in Raebareli that once were attached to the Congress. “These groups of women can work as Dinesh Singh ji's strength even after the poll — no matter what the result. He was once close to the Gandhis. Once, many of us trusted the Gandhis, but now things have to change for betterment.” he said.

    Harimohan Singh, a resident of Raebareli who had come to attend Amit Shah’s rally at the intercollege grounds told this author that the absence of the Gandhis from Raebareli won't work at all, anymore.

    “Singh has been attached to the grassroots of this constituency. He is always around to help people. People have read and understood this for decades. The Gandhis have done nothing for Raebareli during these last two terms — in health or education and infrastructure. Jo desh ko khokhla kar gaye, wo Raebareli ko kya denge ab?”

    Kamal Bajpai, another resident of Raebareli at the Amit Shah rally said: “The Gandhis have failed to do anything about providing investment, education, higher education, or health infrastructure to Raebareli. People who feel the absence of these basics have not been able to express their dissatisfaction in the past 10 years. They also notice how MPs of the BJP are working towards the improvement of their constituencies by providing the basics expected in development and infrastructure.”

    Ramkumari, a resident from Raebareli Sadar is outspoken: “I have not got any big benefit from the Modi government. It is not his fault. It is the fault of those who are supposed to help beneficiaries, but, I will do anything to see Modi win in Raebareli. It is because his government has changed the
    demeanour of the nation in a positive way. Our daughters and daughter-in-law are safe. Izzat se jee rahe hain, izzat se aa ja rahe hain. Yeh kya kam hai?"

    Ashwini Kumar, a voter at Amit Shah rally told this author: “People are ready to bring the required change in Raebareli. When do people go for that lease of transformative action? When they are either happy or sad. Right now, they are happy with the change that Narendra Modi is bringing to the nation and sad about how Raebareli is lagging behind. Practically, there is no better time to give Raebareli that push.” 

    According to Kumar, the people of Raebareli are looking at Amethi and Lucknow — the changes that have taken place there and comparing the MPs with their own. “They realise that their children are setting out for jobs in Lucknow, Delhi, Bangalore and other bigger cities. These cities have seen massive development in infrastructure, jobs and basic amenities. Why should Raebareli not progress?”  

    The BJP is also counting on women voters as its strength — particularly in the rural parts of the constituency.

    Women power for BJP
    Women power for BJP

    Several women voters this author spoke to in rural parts of Raebareli and at Amit Shah's rally are beneficiaries of at least one or two women-centred schemes. Among the schemes they have received benefits are free ration, LPG cylinders, a pucca house, tap water connection, and electricity connection, among others.

    Women beneficiaries at a BJP rally
    Women beneficiaries at a BJP rally

    Voters from Jagatpur in Raebareli told this author that people want to see a change in representation. Geeta Devi, a voter is yet to receive the second installment under PM Awas Yojna but told this author that the building of the house has transformed her life. “Hamare Bhagwan ko bhi ghar mil gaya (Ram Mandir), humko bhi ghar mil gaya (I, too, got a home).” 

    Hari Om Singh said that voters will not be misguided by the Gandhis anymore. “Neither on caste, not on any other aspect can people be fooled anymore. By giving false promises, the youth has been fooled by the alliance. Not only the rural areas, even the sadar area has seen a lot of change in perspective regarding the Gandhis. Businessmen, women, students, women students feel safer.” 

    Women supporters at Rahi village. (All images by Sumati Mehrishi)
    Women supporters at Rahi village. (All images by Sumati Mehrishi)

    Singh winds up from that space only an hour later for his election war room at the upper floor of this block. The war room is abuzz with booth-level management and discussions with a mix of youth and experienced kartyakartas from the BJP.

    Over a thick, sugar-rich version of besan barfis, his team members from Raebareli and those from Lucknow discuss the proceedings and arrangements for the campaign. Singh is giving everything to the campaign. 

    This report is part of Swarajya's 50 Ground Stories Project - an attempt to throw light on themes and topics that are often overlooked or looked down. You can support this initiative by sponsoring as little as Rs 2,999/-. Click here for more details.

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