Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), May 8 : In the run-up to the crucial May 19 voting, Brahmin elders pledge support to the Congress; some are confident Samajwadi candidate will win and youngsters seem to endorse BJP readily.
Gorakhpur has an interesting socio-political history. During the peak of Congress popularity in 1980s when mafia raj reigned supreme, Hari Shankar Tiwari made it "as an independent MLA from Chillupar", the Gorakhpur region got infamously named as ‘Chicago of the East.’Things have truly moved drastically in last three-four decades.
The scene at the famous Govind Ballabh Pant Park in circa 2019 - first week of May - is unique.
Every evening as the walkers start filling up the place – people of every walk of life start discussing politics. Senior citizens here would tell new comers – the eastern UP has a reputation for discipline especially among youngsters and students. Others say a large number of them are known for seemingly docile obedience to authority.
A few youngsters are found to be more enthusiastic than others. Their sense of obedience and commitment to the cause of BJP may be imposed from above. Sudhir Mishra – 17 – is a RSS foot soldier and is seen more eager than others. 'I am telling people of every caste and age, I will not be able to vote this time, but everyone else should. And my point is clear they must vote for BJP,' says Mishra without blinking an eye.
About other 20 youngsters – some of them owing allegiance to RSS, a few to Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and rest of them call themselves ‘freelancers’. But all them are committed to the win of BJP candidate and film actor Ravi Kishan Shukla from Gorakhpur.Some of them are also going around and telling voters that the BJP nominees should do well in neighbouring constituencies as well.
In some segments – they say – going is easy for BJP but there will be competition in some areas. 'There is difference of opinion among Gorakhpur voters and it is good. Old timers generally from upper caste Hindus – and more specifically Brahmins – may support Congress nominees. But the younger generation endorses BJP chiefly because of the 'Narendra Modi factor',' says another youngster Adarsh Pathak.Old timers especially Brahmins do not have very good opinion of the Modi government. They do not sound happy with the Yogi regime also.
With wrinkled skin wrapped loosely around his frail and aging bones, Anupam Chaturvedi says, 'Compared to what Yogi-Modi duo has brought, the Congress era was much better in Gorakhpur. The caste idiom has harmed Uttar Pradesh and thus it is time, people show faith in the Congress. In Gorakhpur we will vote for the Congress'.
Chaturvedi, a retired engineer, and a Brahmin admits: 'There was a lot of expectation from the Yogi Adityanath government because he came promising to fight caste-based politics. But as a Thakur he promoted his caste and in more ways than one, the Brahmins at different levels got cornered'.
This factor, he emphasises, will leave its impact and the BJP nominee Ravi Kishan Shukla will be humbled.In electoral politics, Gorakhpur is a known saffron fortress and the Mahant of ‘powerful’ Gorakhpeeth, Yogi Adityanath has been winning the seat for six consecutive terms but the by-election in 2018 proved different and BJP lost the seat.But BJP supporters and youngsters say the ‘exception’ of 2018 bypoll was like an ‘accident’ as the saffron party was hardly serious about the contest.'Well, it is true, the BJP lost and since then corrective steps have been taken. The election in Gorakhpur is now prestige matter for the UP Chief Minister,' says Abhinav Tripathi.
Other BJP supporters say it is time to move beyond constituencies like Amethi or Varanasi, the real VIP seat vis-a-vis in the context of Uttar Pradesh is Gorakhpur.
In this context, Ramesh Kumar Poddar, a local BJP worker at Sarafa Bazar says –'“The caste management has been done well. BJP nominee is a Brahmin, Thakurs support base is ensured because Yogi Adityanath is himself a Thakur and Nishad Party is backing BJP'.
However, Samajwadi Party worker Toofan Singh believes the battle is seemingly in favour of the Mahagatbandhan.'As BJP has fielded a Brahmin candidate, Thakurs are not happy. And as Ravi Kishan is a celebrity, even local Brahmin citizens do not feel attracted towards him'.These views are endorsed by Congress supporters readily.
Nihar Shrivastava, a ‘self admitted’ Congress supporter says- 'Fielding a local candidate would have given BJP an edge. But they gambled on Ravi Kishan. I think, top BJP leaders also want to embarrass Yogi Adityanath. After many years, I see the seat coming to Congress'.Will Gorakhpur offer a real shocker is no longer a hidden question especially among the citizens who come for evening walk at the Govind Ballabh Pant Park.
Ram Buhal Nishad, the gathbandhan's candidate, has no concerns about being overshadowed by his movie star opponent. "I have the support of all the marginalised sections of society across caste and religion." Some Nishad party supporters say they will vote for him because despite poaching Pravin Nishad, the BJP eventually did not name him as its choice for Gorakphur. (UNI)