“Bharat mein Modiraj, Deoria mein Kalraj (Modi government in India and Kalraj in Deoria) read the banners and hoardings put up in Deoria district.
However, the pitch and the path that Kalraj Mishra has used and paved to contest from Deoria does not sound as rhythmic as the slogan.
Kalraj’s candidature from Deoria caused a lot of heartburn among local leaders, including former state president Surya Pratap Shahi, who has been an MLA from district’s Pathardewa Assembly seat. Kalraj, an MlA from Lucknow East, was keen on Kanpur seat but was sent to Deoria after Murli Manohar Joshi was adjusted there.
When BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi reached at the stage in Deoria on Saturday to address a rally, he made it a point to raise the hands of both Kalraj and Shahi, keeping both on his either sides. Modi also praised Shahi in his speech.
In Pathardewa, there are still wall paintings with the names of Shahi and Modi. Shahi was keen on contesting from Deoria and had been preparing for it. He even organised a rally, which was addressed former BJP president Nitin Gadkari.
“He had visited village after village. The denial of ticket caused some disappointment but it was a party decision and was accepted,” says his brother Murari Mohan in Pathardewa.
After the initial sulk, Shahi started campaigning for Kalraj. Former MP from Deoria, Sriprakash Mani Tripathi was also a hopeful for ticket and is said to sulking over the denial.
Besides the internal conflicts, Kalraj has a tough challenger in BSP candidate Niyaz Ahmad Khan who replaced the party’s sitting MP Gorakh Prasad Jaiswal. He is seen as a favourite for over 3 lakh Dalits and over 2 lakh Muslims in the constituency.
Samajwadi Party has fielded Baleshwar Yadav while Congress has fielded Sahba Kunwar Kushwaha, both OBCs, thus reducing the chances of support for Mishra from these castes.
Besides the upper castes, Kalraj is getting support from smaller communities. Ramesh Rajbhar, a shopkeeper in Deoria, says he will vote for BJP. “We have seen the Congress, SP and BSP. Why not give BJP a chance for five years?” he says.
But, the support from disparate groups and individuals does not appear as assuring as the consolidated support base for the BSP candidate. Subhash Chandra Mishra, a businessman in Deoria city, says Kalraj’s victory is very tough and Niyaz has an upper hand.
“Only Brahmins are clear about supporting Kalraj. But, how many Brahmins and upper castes actually come out to vote? Muslims and Dalits always vote in larger numbers and that will give benefit to Niyaz. Also, Kalraj is prone to the internal sabotage as many who were denied candidature are sulking,” he says.