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How Ravi Kishan won Gorakhpur for BJP — with Bhojpuri glamour & cry against caste politics

Bhojpuri star Ravi Kishan, with a powerful lead of 3 lakh votes, is set to snatch back Gorakhpur for BJP.

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Lucknow: The same gathbandhan formula that wrested Gorakhpur from the BJP after 30 years in the 2018 bypoll seems to have lost appeal in elections 2019. Bhojpuri star and Bigg Boss alum Ravi Kishan Shukla, who lost the 2014 election from his native Jaunpur on a Congress ticket, had a strong lead of nearly 3 lakh votes at 4.30pm, with the gathbandhan candidate Rambhual Nishad a distant second.

If the trend holds when the final results are declared, Ravi Kishan will become the first BJP MP from the seat who will not be a head priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt.

In the eight elections preceding the 2018 by-election, the seat was won by the mutt’s head priest — Mahant Avedyanath followed by Adityanath, his successor in the post.

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The 2019 battle for Gorakhpur was fiercely fought, with the BJP pulling out all stops to reverse the bypoll verdict — arch-rivals Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party had first tested their gathbandhan maths in this by-election and tasted success.

The bypoll was held because Yogi Adityanath, who had won the seat in 2014, assumed the chief minister’s office in Uttar Pradesh three years later.

The last leg of the current election had seen the CM and five-term Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath camping at Goraknath Mutt to bolster the BJP’s campaign. The influence of the Gorakhnath Mutt in the region has always been crucial in retaining the seat for the BJP.

This year, the glamour surrounding the Bhojpuri star as well as the Modi factor seem to have added new edge to the BJP’s advantage.

Kishan promised to build a film city in Gorakhpur as an avenue to generate employment, while also speaking about shedding his surname “Shukla” to blend into the Mumbai film industry crowd as he predicted the end of caste-based politics — through it all, he donned saffron clothes like his BJP predecessor Adityanath.

With Adityanath (a Thakur) publicly supporting Kishan (a Brahmin), the BJP tried to bring together the traditionally acrimonious groups in Gorakhpur.

Meanwhile, the Congress attempted to attract upper caste votes away from the BJP by fielding Madhusudhan Tiwari, a local Brahmin lawyer, to counter Kishan, whom it described as an outsider. As of Thursday afternoon, he had just about 3 per cent of Ravi Kishan’s vote share of over 7 lakh.

Also read: UP firmly with Modi and BJP as Akhilesh-Mayawati gathbandhan falters

Caste maths fails?

In fielding Nishad, the gathbandhan had tried to tap the support of the constituency’s influential Nishad community, which is said to have helped it win the 2018 bypoll.

Comprising at least 18 per cent of Gorakhpur’s voters, the boatmen community of Nishads or Mallahs form the largest voter chunk in the constituency.

A BJP bastion since 1991, Gorakhpur became a crucial testing ground for the SP-BSP alliance in 2018. The experiment proved successful and the seat was wrested from the BJP with a margin of just 20,000 votes in favour of SP candidate Praveen Kumar Nishad.

In this election, however, Praveen Kumar, who is also NISHAD party chief Sanjay Nishad’s son, changed loyalties, allied with the BJP and moved to the neighbouring Sant Kabir Nagar constituency as an NDA candidate.

Also read: BJP crushes Congress hopes in Rajasthan, MP & Chhattisgarh, set to sweep all 3 states


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