After canvassing in a white SUV on the bumpy roads of villages in Kamaalpur area on Sunday, 20-year-old Akash Singh arrived at Saiyadraja Bazar in Chandauli district to attend a public meeting. There, BSP Rajya Sabha member Munqad Ali was the chief guest appealing — especially to Muslim voters — for party candidate and Akash’s father Shyam Narayan Singh alias Vineet Singh, who is in a Ranchi jail. A former BSP MLC, Vineet has 11 cases registered against him and had surrendered last year in connection with a kidnapping case lodged in 2003. The Jharkhand High Court had granted him eight days’ relief and he was able to file his nomination from Saiyadraja assembly seat.
Akash has been assisting his father’s campaign since the last six months. A BA first year student at Dayal Singh College in Delhi, Akash tells the crowd he is here for his father.
“Padhai chhodkar majboori mein anurodh karne aaya hun taaki mere pita ko insaaf dila sakun. Mere pita ko ashirwaad dijiye. Unhe phansaya gaya hai. Iss bete ke dard ko samajhiye. (I am compelled to come here to get justice for my father. Please bless him. He has been framed. Please understand this son’s pain),” he appealed after Ali’s speech.
His mother Pramila Singh, the zilla panchayat chairperson in Mirzapur, also got on stage and appealed for votes for her husband. Despite the election fever, Akash won’t wait to get to know the results. On March 8, he has to sit for an exam in Delhi.
“Polling in Saiyadraja will be on March 8, I will leave for Delhi immediately after that,” Akash told The Indian Express.
Saiyadraja has around 3.5 lakh voters, with Thakurs and Bhumihars in majority, followed by Vaishyas, Dalits and OBCs. Vineeth’s rivals include BJP’s Sushil Singh and SP MLA from Saiyadraja Manoj Kumar Singh. The contest in this constituency is appearing to be among these three who are all Thakurs.
“The contest has become interesting because two bahubalis — Vineet and Sushil — are contesting. They are called bahubali because both are muscle men and equally powerful financially and politically,” said Viresh Kumar of Pipri village in Kamalpur.
Sushil was elected MLA from Dahanapur seat in the same district in 2007 as a BSP nominee. He was denied a ticket in 2012. But he went on to contest successfully as an Independent from Sakaldiha. In 2014, he joined BJP.
Sushil had been named in five cases, including one of murder. “I have been acquitted in all. These were lodged because of political reasons,” said Sushil while canvassing in Bhainsora village. Sushil said he was not a bahubali as is being claimed, calling it a label for which he blamed his opponents.
Sushil is nephew of politician Brijesh Singh, also accused in many cases and currently in Varanasi Central Jail. Brijesh was elected as MLC from Varanasi local authorities constituency last year. Sushil’s father Chulbul Singh too was a BJP MLC on the same seat for two terms. However, he is politically inactive these days due to health reasons.
“Fake cases were registered against me, my uncle too has been implicated in fake cases, my father was attacked by rivals and my grandfather was murdered. If I raise my voice against that injustice and work for my own security and then people call me bahubali, that is wrong,” Sushil said after addressing a nukkad meeting where he told village residents that he has always “helped the needy”. Sushil said that development was his election agenda because Chandauli was lacking it.
Did his election slogan, “ek hi naara, ek hi naam- Jai shree ram, jai shree ram”, betray anything else? Sushil said: “being Hindu I cannot avoid Hindutva” but he believed people from all caste and religion supported him.
SP candidate Manoj Kumar Singh could not be reached for his views on the election as he was busy preparing for an election meeting that was to be addressed by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
BSP MP and Varanasi zonal coordinator Munqad Ali, in his speech during a poll meeting for Vineet Singh, appealed to Muslims to support Vineet so Mayawati could become CM. Ali claimed Mayawati was the lone well-wisher of Muslims.