At an Amit Shah mega roadshow, the BJP’s Gorakhpur candidate and filmstar Ravi Kishan breaks into a Bhojpuri hit song from one of his films. A few people in the sea of saffron hum along but he still appears out of tune with the masses, no matter how much Bhojpuri he speaks in his addresses, he is clearly the outsider that everyone has to be nice to, yet he remains just that —- an outsider.
The people of Gorakhpur do not wholeheartedly accept Ravi Kishan, says Amit Mishra, a first-time voter out on a stroll on the promenade of Ramgarh Tal Lake, the city’s largest lake, after the roadshow. Mishra is himself an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leader and a job-seeker.
Just like in Ramgarh Tal Lake, in which there are no visible waves but occasional ripples speak of a strong undercurrent, the supposed Modi wave still being hyped by the party machinery is hardly evident. There is a silent, and sometimes not so silent, murmur of discontent in this Yogi Adityanath stronghold.
Even the BJP’s traditional voters in this picnic spot frequented by upper-middle-class Gorakhpuris do not seem terribly excited about either the BJP candidate or the party’s performance.
Also read: Elections 2019: UP Gathbandhan to Gain Owing to Lack of Support for BJP Candidate in Gorakhpur
Employment and Education
Devesh Mishra, a first-time voter said, “There is no industry nor any institute for higher studies in Gorakhpur despite Adityanath having been a Member of Parliament (MP) from here for 25 years. The government school here is in an abysmal state. If you compare Gorakhpur with Raebareli, you will find Gorakhpur remained backward while Raebareli developed a lot in 25 years. I am saying this with confidence because my father works in Raebareli. Meanwhile, we do not want Ravi Kishan as our MP because he never visits Gorakhpur before elections, nor will he post elections.”
When asked if the Balakot air strike would influence Gorakhpur voters, Mishra said, “I don’t think so. Asking for votes in the name of the air strike is not fair. Government should appeal to the youth on the basis of employment and health.”
Ajit Pandey, a government employee, shared his sentiments about industry in Gorakhpur, “There must be some industry in Gorakhpur, which will create jobs for locals and education should be improved rapidly, as it has taken a backseat here. For higher studies and jobs, people are migrating to Delhi and other metro cities. We expect these developments because the Chief Minister comes from our place.”
He continued, “People of Gorakhpur have not accepted Ravi Kishan wholeheartedly because people who come from the film industry won’t give you time. Half his time will go in movies and it is very doubtful whether he will be available in Gorakhpur, if he wins the elections.”
Amrita Pandey, a BCom student at Gorakhpur University, seems worried because there are hardly any classes taking place in the university. She says teachers do come but do not take class. She thinks the university is producing students with zero knowledge. “This is why our country is not progressing ahead in the employment of the youth, universities and institutions like this are responsible for that,” Pandey said.
Manoj Kumar Verma, who runs a jewellery shop and is a staunch BJP supporter, told NewsClick, “The education system is not good in Gorakhpur, but graph of education rose a bit after former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav distributed laptops to the students, but a lot of improvement is needed.”
“If Praveen Nishad (former Samajwadi Party MP who has joined BJP) would have contested, the arithmetic could have been different,” he added.
Locals told NewsClick that while there had been substantial infrastructure work, such as roads and beautification, apart from the setting up of AIIMS Gorakhpur, a lot more needs to be done in the area of education, health and other basic services.
Also read: Tragedies Continue on Daily Basis at Gorakhpur’s BRD Hospital
Arun, who runs a small tea stall near the Regional Transport Office (RTO), said, “People come here and talk about politics a lot and say things like “hum nachaniya ko vote nahi denge (we will not give our vote to a dancer). Still in Gorakhpur city, the BJP has an edge but in rural areas, SP candidate Ram Bhual is leading. Yet, many people feel that Yogi is contesting this election, not Ravi Kishan, and people are going to vote in the name of Yogi and the PM. In the by-poll, the BJP lost the election by a very close margin.”
In Gorakhpur, there are around 4 lakh upper-caste voters, out of which 2 lakh are Brahmins alone. There are around 3 lakh Nishad and 2.15 lakh Muslim voters. Yadav voters are around 2.50 lakh, while there 1 lakh dalits.
Both the ruling BJP and the Gathbandhan are relying on their caste votebanks, since the BJP faced humiliating defeat at the hands of the Gathbandhan in the Gorakhpur by-polls last year. The caste arithmetic is not in favour of the party, as it faces an additional burden of incumbency, making it an uphill task for the party to win this prestige seat.
Gorakhpur goes to Lok Sabha polls on May 19.