Forty-year-old Sheela rushed to a public rally early on Friday morning with her 18-year-old daughter, Minal. At Digvijay Nath Park, near Taramandal in Gorakhpur city, she hurried to find space to catch a glimpse of the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who was five-term MP from Gorakhpur before he entered the State Assembly. But her daughter is only interested in hearing Ravindra Shyamnarayan Shukla alias Ravi Kishan Shukla, the TV celebrity and actor, who won the last Lok Sabha elections from Gorakhpur on a BJP ticket.

Ravi Kishan has been in a heated poll campaign on the back of the huge successes of the film Laapataa Ladies where he plays the part of a benevolent police inspector and another hugely popular web series Mamla Legal Hai that portrays him as a canny lawyer with a heart of gold.

“I think of the good inspector in the film who helped out a young girl in need. He is a hero,” Minal, a student, said. She cannot really recall his work as an MP but is very impressed by his filmi charisma.

Ravi Kishan, fresh from his success as lawyer VD Tyagi in Mamla Legal Hai, thinks his connections in the film world have helped him as a politician.

“I have been student of cinema for 33 years. For the last five years, I invited 100-150 people from the film industry and they have started shooting here which has given employment to many. I have the potential to create job opportunities with the help of cinema. I train people. I provide skilling, upskilling and reskilling to youth so that they can be absorbed in cinema and TV industry. Please remember every one can’t get government job,” said Kishan, who filed his nomination on Thursday to seek a second term as MP.

‘Serving people’

People generally believe that the city has seen “good development”. It now has an AIIMS, four big universities, an industrial park developed by GIDA and a functional airport. However, for all these they give credit to Yogi Adityanath, who is also called “Gorakshpeethadhishwar” heading the much-revered Gorakhnath Math. “Result is predictable here. Ravi Kishan will win. The only question is by how much margin,” said Anil, a local shopkeeper.

Gorakhpur district has two parliamentary constituencies – Gorakhpur and Bansgaon - and both are represented by BJP in the 17th Lok Sabha. While Gorakhpur has five Assembly segments, Bansgaon has four and all nine are represented by BJP in the State Assembly. In the 2019 election, Ravi Kishan defeated Rambhual Nishad of Samajwadi Party by over 3 lakh votes from Gorakhpur.

This time SP has fielded TV actress Kajal Nishad, 41. She is not new to politics. She contested on a Congress ticket in 2012, but lost. She joined SP in 2021 and contested in the assembly polls of 2022 but again lost. She is relying on the large Nishad community to vote for her. BSP has fielded Javed Simnani, who also had a rally on Thursday, but amid a thin crowd. “Garmi hai, isliye log nahi aaye,” says a BSP supporter.

Ravi Kishan says he will continue serving the people while working in the film industry. “Cinema is my bread and butter and politics is a medium of service to the people. I put money from my own pocket to serve the people. PM Modi and CM Yogi know that cinema is my livelihood and I am in politics to serve people. I request people to come and shoot here, so that more and more employment opportunities can be created. You will see me continue facing the camera as that is my life, my oxygen.”