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Last Stages of Lok Sabha Polls Are ‘Powered Up’ by UP’s Strongmen Netas And Their Thakur Politics

The struggle between political parties and candidates is intensifying as the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh and around the nation approach their conclusion. In this context, the ostensibly shifted political positions of two prominent figures in Uttar Pradesh politics have significance, particularly with regard to Pratapgarh and Jaunpur, two Lok Sabha seats that are scheduled to be polled on May 25 in the sixth round of the elections. Nonetheless, more than anything else, some observers refer to it as “Thakur politics.”

The declaration of Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) president and Kunda MLA, Raghuraj Pratap Singh, also referred to as Raja Bhaiya, to keep a neutral posture ahead of the fifth round of the elections on May 20 caused a stir in the political climate of the state. Singh told his followers to cast their votes anyway they saw appropriate and did not endorse any particular candidate or party—an unexpected decision considering that he had just met with Amit Shah, the union home minister, in Bengaluru, which had raised rumors that he may back the Bharatiya Janata Party. According to onlookers, Singh’s non-committal remarks about the BJP and his removal from Shah’s platform at the Kunda event caught them off guard.

Although Raghuraj Pratap Singh has not run for office in the Lok Sabha elections, the Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) still has a lot of power, especially in Pratapgarh, where voting is scheduled for May 25. Since 1993, the well-known Thakur leader of Poorvanchal has been re-elected as an MLA from the Kunda seat, demonstrating his enduring influence and the need for any political party to take into account his standing and support in the area.

In reality, Singh delivered a biting critique of Anupriya Patel, the union minister, for her “Raja-Rani” statement from last week, asserting that Jan Sevaks, or public workers, are descended from electronic voting machines (EVMs), not Rajas, or monarchs.

The birth of kings and queens has stopped. We live in a country where 70 percent of the population lives in poverty. By pushing the EVM button, the public determines whether or not the representative should be granted another opportunity after their five-year tenure as public servants, according to Raghuraj Pratap Singh.

His remarks followed on Saturday when Anupriya Patel, national president of Apna Dal (Soneylal), attacked Singh for choosing to remain impartial in the current Lok Sabha polls without naming him.

At a public gathering in Kunda, Pratapgarh, which is part of the Kaushambi parliamentary seat, Patel said that this was a great chance to dispel the myth that self-styled rulers “who think that Kunda is their fiefdom” exist. “The only absolute authority in a free democracy is the vote. Voters have the power to create kings and paupers,” she said during a Manikpur Military Bagh area campaign stop for BJP candidate Vinod Sonkar, who is running for Kaushambi.

However, there have been rumors that former MP and strongman politician Dhananjay Singh’s wife, Shrikala Reddy Singh, may be joining the BJP after they recently saw federal minister Amit Shah in New Delhi. Influential Jaunpur resident Dhananjay Singh has already openly expressed his support for the BJP. The Bahujan Samaj Party first nominated Shrikala Reddy Singh to run against Kripashankar Singh of the BJP in the Jaunpur Lok Sabha seat. But on the last day of nominations, the BSP replaced her with the sitting Member of Parliament, Shyam Prasad Yadav, which changed the dynamics of the election.

With the possible entry of Shrikala Reddy Singh, a triangular contest was expected for the Jaunpur seat. The BJP was originally worried about this strategy because they thought it might spread Thakur’s votes. As things were happening, Kripashankar Singh of the BJP seemed to have an easier time winning the election since Dhananjay Singh was granted bail and Shrikala was removed from the fight. Analysts conjectured that Dhananjay Singh’s calculated decision to run his wife as a BSP candidate was intended to hurt Babu Singh Kushwaha, the candidate for the Samajwadi Party, and complicate the BJP contest. But with the BSP’s last-minute candidate switch, this became a more Kripashankar Singh-friendly scenario.

The chairman of Bhimrao Ambedkar University’s political science department, Shashikant Pandey, said that the state’s electoral landscape has been greatly impacted by the participation of the Thakur population. In addition to Dhananjay Singh and Raja Bhaiya, important roles are played by other prominent Thakur leaders such as Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Brijesh Singh, and Abhay Singh. Beyond the boundaries of their seats, these politicians have significant power in eastern Uttar Pradesh, where Thakur supporters are numerous and their backing is crucial.

Election results have traditionally been affected by the allegiance of the Thakur community. They used to be very influential in the Samajwadi Party under Amar Singh, but in more recent times, they have shifted their allegiance to the BJP. But the BJP needs this support, and as the polls go into the final stages in eastern Uttar Pradesh, any unrest among the community might be harmful.

These Thakur leaders’ complicated dance of endorsements and allegiances is representative of the region’s complex political landscape. The impact of Thakur politics becomes more apparent with every stage of the election. The present success of the BJP depends on obtaining and retaining the support of powerful Thakur leaders like Dhananjay Singh in the face of changing allegiances and calculated maneuvers by other Uttar Pradesh political actors.

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