February 13, 2017 1:45:17 am
THIS IS one seat where the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance does have a common candidate. As such, he faces aspirants denied tickets by both parties.
Sahab Singh Pasi of the Congress is the alliance candidate from Bachhrawan (SC), a seat held by the SP and grudgingly conceded. The sitting SP MLA, Ram Lal Akela, has now got himself an RLD ticket. Add to that a Congress rebel. The Congress had originally selected Sushil Kumar Pasi, then replaced him with his namesake Sahab. Sushil Kumar Pasi is now contesting as an independent.
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Sahab Singh Pasi, a first-timer, is the son of Shiv Darshan, four-time MLA from this seat. He touches the feet of almost every voter he meets during his campaign. He seeks votes in the name of his father. “Is baar SAPA humare saath hai,” he occasionally tells the voter. This comes in a low voice; there is no one from the SP campaigning with him.
Sahab believes his late father’s reputation as as a simple, humble leader is the biggest thing going for him. Party sources say Priyanka Gandhi will campaign for him this week. Most voters identify him either with his father or with Sonia Gandhi; Bachhrawan is part of Sonia’s Rae Bareli Lok Sabha seat.
“His father was widely respected and people might vote for him in his name. He can also hope for traditional Congress votes in the name of Sonia, something that those joining the Congress from other parties might not have got,” says Ankush Vaidya, a shopkeeper in Maharajganj area.
A local Congress leader spots a former SP office-bearer, Awadhesh Kumar Yadav, and urges Sahab to touch his feet as well. Sahab does so twice but Awadhesh, who in his sixties, does not even smile. “Hum vyakti ke liye nahi, party ke liye kaam karte hain. Akhilesh ji ne kaha hai to support karenge,” says Awadhesh. He does not make eye contact with Sahab, who stands with folded hands.
“SP leaders are soon going to hold a meeting and direct their leaders and workers to support me,” says an optimistic Sahab. He believes that development brought by Sonia is good enough to win him votes.
About 18 km away, Naimuddin runs a bicycle repair shop. He is an SP supporter. “We have been voting for the SP, and will have to vote for the Congress now,” he grumbles. “The fact is, Congress leaders seek votes in the name of Sonia and don’t look back at the constituency for the next five years.”
Daula Prasad Dwivedi of Jahangirabad, who works as a labourer, feels law and order was better during the BSP regime. Sitting next to him, Dharma Prakash Gautam says, “We have been discussing this. Very few SP votes will transfer to the Congress; no one wants a leader who won’t listen to them.”
When Sahab replaced the originally chosen Sushil, it was reportedly because Priyanka, who is said to be selecting candidates in this region, wanted someone with a Congress family background. Sushil wasn’t in the Congress earlier; he had contested the last election as the candidate of a little known party, RSBP. He had, however, finished second. Following his nomination as an independent against his namesake, there are now four Pasi candidates in this seat, which has a Pasi population close to 80,000.
Congress leaders say Sushil Pasi was acceptable neither to the Congress nor to the SP cadre in the region. Sahab, on the other hand, is not controversial, a new face, and acceptable to both parties, the leaders say.
Former MLA Shyam Sunder is the BSP candidate.
Sitting SP MLA-turned-RLD candidate Akela, meanwhile, still chants “Mulayam Singh Yadav zindabad” and maintains Mulayam remains his “political guru”. He hopes SP workers will go along with him rather than the Congress candidate.
“In 2014, the SP asked all its sitting MLAs and party leaders in Rae Bareli to support the campaign of Sonia, and we did so,” Akela tells The Indian Express. “After the elections, Congress leaders did not recognise our efforts. Today, we are being asked to leave our assembly seat for them, which we had won in spite of Priyanka’s campaign in 2012.”
Samajwadi Party district president Ram Bahadur Yadav says party workers are campaigning with the Congress candidate as per the instructions of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. “The alliance is in place and discussions are going on. The district leadership of the two parties will sit together to make a programme for a join campaign,” he says.
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