In a contest between veterans, Moradabad welcomes a poet

Poornima Joshi Moradabad | Updated on April 25, 2019 Published on April 25, 2019

Congress candidate Imran Pratapgarhi during a roadshow in the Moradabad Lok Sabha constituency   -  -

Cong’ choice has evoked surprise, affection in the midst of a tough electoral battle

The emergence of a young poet as a plausible contender in the middle of a heated contest among veterans is a refreshing reminder of the people’s organic connect with the democratic process of electioneering.

Imran Pratapgarhi, a 31-year-old poet, is the Congress’ surprise choice in this tough constituency with 19 lakh voters as the battle for each seat rages on in the politically-critical Hindi heartland State of Uttar Pradesh.

With no structure, elaborate party support and only friends and young idealists from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) helping him, Pratapgarhi has managed to strike a rapport with the people in Moradabad town.

On the last day of campaigning in the third phase, during which Moradabad voted, the poet-candidate had over a lakh people thronging the roads to watch him recite poetry and rail against established political order.

“It is a voice that comes from the heart. It is a voice that speaks for you and not for religion or division. We need to shake this force that divides the nation. I cry for our land and not for myself. I cry for Pehlu Khan (victim of mob lynching), for Najeeb and for those who have been slain just because they were different. This is our land, let no one call us an outsider,” Pratapgarhi told his audience as some of them wept. His road-show worried the Samajwadi Party and delighted the BJP, which expected a “split in the Muslim vote”.

“The Congress will help us here,” said a local BJP leader who thought his party did not stand a chance unless the SP veteran ST Khan loses his grip over the local Muslim population. “The Jatavs and the Yadavs are voting for the Mahagathbandhan. But if the Muslims get divided, the BJP has a chance here,” said a BJP MLA.

‘It’s only crowd, not votes’

The SP is annoyed with the debutant. “Who is he? He is not even from Moradabad. Our candidate will win,” said SP MLA from Moradabad (Rural) Haji Iqram Qureshi.

“You don’t get votes just because you can gather a crowd. If any outsider sits here and recites poetry, 500 people will gather. Yeh to tamashbeen shahar hai (this city likes a spectacle). And if he is an idealist, he should stop helping the BJP by trying to cut into our votes,” said Qureshi.

Pratapgarhi is unfazed by the allegations of being a “BJP mole”. He has rented quarters in a locality named after Moradabad’s renowned poet, Jigar Moradabadi, and swears by values, ideas and ideals.

“Let my opponents say what they want. My only agenda is to make a difference in people’s lives. I have campaigned with all my heart for all political parties but I realised that Congress is the only national party with whom my ideological alignment is realistic and complete. I think people respond to someone who is authentic and has no hidden agendas. Moradabad has given me a lot of affection. I am confident of winning,” said Pratapgarhi.

Published on April 25, 2019
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