How the ‘Raja Bhaiya factor’ in Uttar Pradesh can sway voters

Shahira Naim Updated - May 24, 2024 at 07:59 PM.
Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya

The heads of two regional parties have publicly come to blows, complicating the electoral battle in some of the seats still to poll in Uttar Pradesh. President of Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) and seven-time MLA from Kunda, Raghuraj Pratap Singh aka Raja Bhaiya and President, Apna Dal (S), Union Minister Anupriya Patel are on a warpath to hold on to their core voters.

After supporting the BJP in the Vidhan Sabha polls of 2022, in which his party won two seats and supporting the BJP candidate during the February Rajya Sabha elections, Raja Bhaiya has decided to remain “neutral” in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls. This has clearly disappointed Anupriya Patel who has given it an egalitarian twist by declaring at a public meeting in Kunda that “Ab Raja EVM se paida hotey hain (Now kings are born from EVMs)”.

Anupriya Patel is a partner in the NDA since 2014 and has two Lok Sabha MPs, including her, 13 MLAs and one MLC making it the third largest political party in Uttar Pradesh. She has been in the Union Cabinet for the last 10 years.

Raja Bhaiya’s stated neutrality is being interpreted as his displeasure and it impacts the elections in at least four Lok Sabha seats. This fact appears to be weighing heavily on the Pratapgarh sitting BJP MP Sangamlal Gupta who is seeking a second term. On May 21, he burst out crying on the stage asking the crowd if a ‘Teli’ (referring to his caste) was not entitled to become a parliamentarian and appealing to his fellow caste persons to send him to the Lok Sabha.

Describing Pratapgarh as the stronghold of kings, he pointed out that here only a Kshatriya can become an MP, no ‘Teli’ can become an MP. He alleged that he was being opposed as he belongs to the ‘Teli’ community.

It may be recalled that in early May, an hour long meeting was held between the influential Thakur leader, Raja Bhaiya, believed to be close to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a Bengaluru hotel, reportedly seeking his support for the reserved Kaushambi seat as well as the Pratapgarh seat. Two of the five assembly seats of Kaushambi Lok Sabha, including Kunda and Babaganj are administratively in Pratapgarh where Raja Bhaiya holds considerable sway.

How the talks went can be gauged from the fact that on May 14, before the fifth phase of polling, in which Kaushambi voted, Raja Bhaiya made an important announcement at his Benti residence. He urged his supporters to vote “independently”. The video of his appeal went viral on the social media platforms.

“Our party is not contesting in either the Pratapgarh or Kaushambi Lok Saba seats nor are we in alliance with any political party. Our supporters and voters in both Kunda and Babaganj Assembly constituencies were continuously in contact with us asking whom to vote. After meeting with party leaders and workers, a decision has been taken that the party will not support any candidate in the Lok Sabha elections. Our voters and supporters may cast their votes as per their will,” declared Raja.

On May 18, Anupriya Patel publicly reacted to this stance at a public meeting in support of the BJP Kaushambi candidate, Vinod Kumar Sonkar, who is seeking re-election.

In a veiled attack on Raja Bhaiya, she hit out at self-proclaimed kings who thought Kunda was their fiefdom. Her statement is seen as an aggressive attempt to consolidate the Dalit and OBC votes of the region.

Raja hit back by proclaiming that “EVMs give birth to jan sewaks (public representatives) and not kings. “Raja rajwade to saat dashak pehle hi khatam ho gaye the (Kings and royalty had come to an end seven decades ago).”

Raja Bhaiya is angry and his rage is expected to cost the BJP dear not only in Pratapgarh, but also in neighbouring seats of Phulpur and Jaunpur. It is also being speculated that Anupriya Patel may feel the heat as Raja Bhaiyya is planning to campaign for the INDIA bloc candidate Ramesh Bind in Mirzapur which votes in the 7th and final phase on June 1. She is the NDA candidate here and Raja Bhaiyya campaigning here is expected to split the Thakur votes making it difficult for her to retain her seat.

Published on May 24, 2024 14:16

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