Holding a photo of his late father and former BJP MLA Janmejay Singh, 45-year-old Ajay Pratap Singh seeks votes, not as a BJP candidate but as an Independent in Deoria Assembly seat where bypoll is being held along with six other constituencies in the state.
Janmejay Singh — a two-time MLA from Deoria — had died of cardiac arrest in August, necessitating the bypoll in the Assembly constituency.
“Majburi hai… Mere Babuji ki seat hai.. Pehle bata diya hota to nahi nikla hota. Inko pichdi jaati ko jaleel karna tha. Ab to ladai panchanve banam paanch ki hai (It is my helplessness to contest in this manner. Had they informed me earlier, I would not have contested at all. But they want to humiliate the backward casts. Therefore, it became necessary to contest. Now, the fight is between 95 versus 5,” Ajay Pratap tells The Indian Express, referring to the line-up of Brahmin candidates by all the parties, including his father’s — the BJP.
In Deoria, all the parties have fielded a Tripathi in the bypoll. The BJP, which did not give ticket to Janmejay Singh’s son, has fielded Satya Prakash Mani Tripathi, a college lecturer. The Samajwadi Party, which had come second in the 2017 Assembly polls in Deoria seat, has fielded veteran party leader Brahma Shankar Tripathi, a five-time MLA from neighbouring Kushinagar district. The BSP has nominated Abhay Tripathi, while the Congress Mukund Bhaskar Mani Tripathi.
Ajay Pratap Singh, on the other hand, belongs to backward caste Sainthwar Kurmi.
Claiming to carry forward the legacy of his father, Ajay Pratap accuses the BJP of “appeasing Brahmins and neglecting the backward castes”.
As he asks voters to press the ballah (cricket bat) button — his election symbol — on voting day, he tells them to try him for one year as Assembly elections are due in 2022. “If I fail your expectations, then reject me in 2022,” he tells voters.
Speaking with The Indian Express, Ajay Pratap says that he had handled his father’s election campaign. “When my father died of a heart attack in August, many (BJP) leaders told me that I will inherit his legacy. Therefore, I started preparing for the election accordingly. At the last moment, I was denied the ticket,” he says.
“Not just the backwards, even Thakurs, Bhumihars are also with me. That’s why the slogan, “Panchanve banam paanch”, he adds, explaining that Brahmins constitute only 5% of population in Deoria Assembly constituency.
The BJP, however, refutes Ajay Pratap’s claim on his father’s legacy, saying its candidate Satya Prakash Tripathi will inherit Janmejay Singh’s legacy.
“The true legacy lies with the candidate chosen by the party. I cannot comment on anyone’s personal decision, but as far as the decision of the party is concerned Satya Prakash Tripathi is a respected and deserving candidate. He will carry the legacy of Janmejay ji, who was also a respected party leader. All the BJP workers are supporting the party’s decision and the candidature of Satya Prakash, who is a known face in the constituency,” Triyamabak Tripathi, the BJP in-charge for Deoria constituency, tells The Indian Express.
The entry of Ajay Pratap Singh has upended the race with Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Bhagidari Morcha, a former ally of the BJP, backing him. Former minister Babu Singh Kushwaha has also extended his support to Ajay Pratap.
The Opposition candidates, however, feel that with Ajay Pratap on the ballot list, it will affect BJP’s position instead of them.
“Ajay Pratap’s candidature is going to affect only the BJP, which has chosen a candidate who belongs to Deoria only in name as Satya Prakash Mani Tripathi is based in Gorakhpur. There has been no development work in the constituency and the party is therefore facing a revolt here,” says Congress candidate Mukund Bhaskar Mani Tripathi.
Claiming that he should not be seen as a Brahmin candidate but a local leader, who is a product of student politics and has remained in the constituency, Mukund calls other candidates “outsiders”.
“The Samajwadi Party has chosen an outsider, former Kushinagar MLA Brahma Shankar Tripathi as its candidate, while the BSP candidate, Abhay Tripathi, hails from Salempurconstituency,” the Congress candidate adds.
While the SP candidate and former minister Brahma Shankar Tripathi is making the law and order as its campaign theme, hitting out at the Yogi Adityanath-led government over the incidents of crimes against women, the BSP will be sending its general secretary and Brahmin face Satish Chandra Mishra to the constituency to campaign for Abhay Tripathi.
The BJP is also leaving no stones unturned and senior leaders, including Deoria MP Ramapati Ram Tripathi, have been asked to camp in the constituency. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is also likely to address a public meeting in the constituency.
The move by the ruling BJP to field a Tripathi comes in the wake of “anti-Brahim” accusations being faced by the Yogi Adityanath-led government in the state. Party sources said that after much discussion, it was decided to not only choose a Brahmin face but a “Mani Tripathi”, who are said to have an influence in the region in Deoria and neighbouring Kushinagar.
According to sources in the BJP, Deoria Sadar Assembly constituency has over 50,000 Brahmin voters, who have traditionally been voting for their party.
Of the seven seats going to bypoll, six were held by the BJP. The counting of votes will take place on November 10.
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