New Delhi: At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is busy pepping up about one crore Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and volunteers to highlight the ‘good’ work done by the government as part of his 'Mera Booth Sabse Mazboot' (My booth is the strongest) campaign, the shoe fight between two elected representatives of Sant Kabir Nagar in Uttar Pradesh has left the party red-faced.
On Wednesday evening, Sant Kabir Nagar Member of Parliament (MP) Sharad Tripathi and Mehdawal Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Rakesh Baghel got into a heated argument at a district coordination committee meeting over taking credit for a newly laid road. Soon after an exchange of abusive language, the MP stood up from his seat and began thrashingBaghelwith his shoe in front of district administration offricials. Various people can be seen recording the episode on their mobile phones in a video that went viral.
Later, Baghel’s supporters created a ruckus in the District Magistrate’s (DM) office, leading to a police lathi-charge to disperse the mob.
As per reports, in the midnight, Baghel and his supporters sat on dharna, demanding disciplinary action against the MP.
Describing the incident, a local who wished to be anonymous told Newsclick that Tripathi was apparently angry that his name was missing from the plaque marking the inauguration of the road in the district's Mehdawal area.
In a damage control move, the duo was summoned to Lucknow at night by BJP state president MN Pandey, who was later quoted by the media as saying that disciplinary action would be taken as per party norms.
Commenting on the incident, Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, spokesperson of Samajwadi Party (SP), told Newsclick, "This incident cannot be seen in isolation. In reality, this is the chaal, charitra and chehra (trait, character and face) of BJP,”
Gandhi cited a similar incident in Unnao, when a BJP MP and other leaders beat up a government employee. “The incident in Sant Kabir Nagar is testimony to the fact that BJP's elected leaders can indulge in violence for credit-seeking and having their names on shilapat (plaque),” he said adding that his party wanted the law to take its own course and that criminal cases should be registered against both the leaders.
Meanwhile, several political observers in the state feel that the
fight between Tripathi and Baghel should not be considered a “normal” fight, suggesting that it had the potential of turning into Rajput vs Brahmin friction in caste-ridden UP during the Lok Sabha elections.
Veteran journalist Nazeer Malik told Newsclick, "In 1974, and till 1985, there was a fight between Rajputs and Brahmins in Gorakhpur. The political rivalry between Harishankar Tiwari and Virendra Pratap Shahi soon turned into a blood-bath and dozens of prominent leaders were murdered.
He said Wednesday’s incident was reminiscent of that same fight. In that fight, rifles were used, but this time round it might turn into a political battle in Eastern UP, he said, adding that “I assure you, Rajputs and Brahmins will be divided this time round,”
Malik said that "People from the Rajput community are viewing this as a prestige issue.”
What Happened in Eastern UP
"Between the 1980s and till the 1990s, there was a open war between Rajputs and Brahmins. One group has the backing of powerful bureaucrats, while the other was empowered and had protection of Matth (Gorakhnath mathh). Later, these two groups were known as the Tiwari and Shahi groups," Malik, who covered the entire incident, told Newsclick.
Newsclick approached Baghel for his comments but due to an ongoing meeting he could not speak. His brother Guddu Baghel told Newsclick, "Whatever the top leader will decide, we will accept. But only two months are left for the elections and our workers have been beaten mercilessly by the district administration. How will we go before them to seek votes”.