Nitesh Yadav for BeyondHeadlines
Mirzapur is a high-profile seat in this election season. Anupriya Patel, the political heir of Sone Lal Patel’s Apna Dal, is contesting for a second term from this seat in alliance with the BJP. Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family welfare, Anupriya is a popular face and comes from the dominant Kurmi caste of the region. The SP is contesting this seat as a part of the Mahagathbandhan. Rajendra Bind, who was previously announced as the candidate of the Samajwadi Party, was replaced by Ram Charitra Nishad who recently joined the SP and was the sitting BJP MP from the adjacent Machhali Shahar Lok Sabha seat.
But that’s not all, the third face in this contest is an ex MLA from the Marihan assembly seat of Mirzapur and comes from the politically influential family of the Tripathis. Lalitesh Pati Tripathi’s great grandfather Kamla Pati Tripathi was a big Congress name and an Ex CM of Uttar Pradesh.
Congress, which is fighting to save its image in the state, is looking to make this a triangular fight. Local Congress leaders suggest that Lalitesh’s charisma amongst the youth gives them an edge and they will be able to win the seat easily.
As the author was travelling in the region, he came across a booth assessment meeting of the Congress headed by Rajesh Pati Tripathi, father of Lalitesh, and a Congress leader himself. Interaction with the local Congress leaders revealed that they were filled with confidence and believed they will be able to recreate the 2009 seat tally. “Modi has betrayed the people of Mirzapur, he has done nothing. Where is the revival of Putlighar project, brass industry of the district, which he promised at his public meeting in Mirzapur during the 2014 election campaign?”, said Dayashankar Pandey, Vice President of the Mirzapur Congress.
Another member of the District Congress committee, Gopal Krishna Tripathi added, “Where are the jobs, where is our 15 lakhs? The BJP has done nothing for Mirzapur. Whatever work has happened in the region, after independence, is because of the Tripathi, Nehru and Gandhi families and the Congress, in large.” On a question about their take on the caste arithmetic of both alliances, Congress workers suggested, “The local BJP MLAs in the region are also upset with the Apna Dal and its ambitions. Internally they are cutting Anupriya’s votes and we will be able to get those votes as Lalitesh has worked for the region and is humble and accessible to the people.” After completing the meeting, Rajesh Pati Tripathi looked confident about his son’s victory. “Lalitesh is a young and educated leader. We do not do the politics of caste but the work Lalitesh has done during his MLA stint and the political legacy he comes from is recognized by the people and they would reward him. We, along with our workers, are working tirelessly in the villages and specially in the interior regions. We have a special dedicated team of 10 young men for every booth”, informed Rajesh Pati Tripathi.
Lalitesh, who is considered close to Rahul and was part of the Congress’ manifesto committee, with senior leaders like P. Chidambaram, fits the old recipe of foreign-educated soft-spoken leaders of the party. He had contested the 2014 elections from Mirzapur and finished third after getting 1.52 lakh votes but increasing the Congress’ vote count by over a lakh from the 2009 results. Despite contesting the 2017 assembly polls in alliance with the SP, he could not win. Local leadership blames this on the SP and feels that he had to face the anger for the incumbent SP govt. The Congress’ push is to get the Brahmin votes, which are currently considered loyal to BJP, but the Tripathi legacy could be a pull factor for the Congress. There is another effort being made to add backward castes on their side. The Congress looks forward to pull the Binds, who are in a sizeable number in the region, on their side to take on the caste equations of both the alliances it is fighting against. Binds are upset after the SP cut Rajendra Bind’s ticket to give it to an outsider candidate. “Humara apmaan kiya hai, ticket deke cheen liya”, said Dhirendra Bind who was previously an SP worker but now is with the Congress after SP gave ticket to Ram Charitra Nishad.
The contest of Mirzapur has become one of the most important and interesting fights in the eastern UP. The Congress eyes a chance of getting this seat after 30 long years and restoring its glory in the region.
(Nitesh is a freelance journalist)