Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Who is Better Placed in Triangular Contest in UP’s Bansgaon Reserved Constituency?

The three major candidates who are competing for the Bansgaon seat are sitting MP Kamlesh Paswan from the BJP, Sadal Prasad from the Congress and Dr Ram Samujh from the BSP.
From L to R: BJP's Kamlesh Paswan, Congress' Sadal Prasad and BSP's Dr Ram Samujh
From L to R: BJP's Kamlesh Paswan, Congress' Sadal Prasad and BSP's Dr Ram SamujhPhoto: The Mooknayak

Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh): Bansgaon, which goes to polls on June 1 in the final phase of the ongoing general elections, is witnessing a triangular battle between sitting MP Kamlesh Paswan of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), veteran Congress leader and former minister Sadal Prasad and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)’s Dr Ram Samujh — a retired officer of the Indian Revenue Services. 

While Paswan belongs to the Pasi community, Prasad and Samujh belong to the Jatav community.

The seat is reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) since its formation in 1962.  The constituency located in eastern Uttar Pradesh straddles across Gorakhpur and Deoria. It has four Assembly segments — Chauri Chaura, Bansgaon, Chillupur (Gorakhpur district), Rudrapur and Barhaj (Deoria district). 

It had traditionally been a Congress bastion, with  Mahabir Prasad, the former Union minister and Governor winning from here for three straight terms (1980, 1984 and 1989). After a gap of 15 years, he won the seat again in 2004. 

Paswan — on the Cusp of Record 

The incumbent MP, Paswan, who has now equaled the record of Mahabir Prasad, seeks to create a new record by winning the seat for the fourth straight time. He first registered victory in 2009 when he switched over to the BJP from the Samajwadi Party (SP). 

He along with six others was sentenced to 1.5 years of imprisonment for his alleged involvement in a 2008 case wherein he attempted to burn the effigy of the then UP Chief Minister Maywati in Gorakhpur while protesting against the arrest of SP leader Akhilesh Yadav. However, the sentence was stayed by the Allahabad High Court in 2023. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have held rallies in his support on May 25 and 29 respectively. However, the 47-year-old apparently faces an uphill task as there is palpable disenchantment against him.

The much touted claim of  high penetration of government schemes falls flat on the ground. Doodhnath, a cobbler from the constituency, says, “I used to get ration earlier, but my name got struck off the list of BPL (below poverty line)   for inexplicable reasons.” 

No BPL card means that the poor man, who earns somewhere between Rs 100-200 per month, has to foot the bill of food himself for a family of four. 

Ram Subhag, a cycle mechanic from Chillupur, alleges that Paswan has not done anything on ground. Adding a tone of sarcasm, he says, “He has done a lot of development for the constituency. The roads in my village are ‘so good’ that you cannot even walk on it, let alone drive a  vehicle.”

On national issues, he says that the much talked about distribution of free ration is in fact a Congress government scheme. As part of the Food Security Act, the then Manmohan Singh-led government provided food grains at subsidized rates. 

“The Modi government has only carried forward the scheme by waiving off the negligible cost that we were supposed to pay, but it indirectly recovered the amount by implementing GST (Goods and Services Tax). The price of the cycle tyres have increased by Rs 55 after the implementation of the GST,” he claims. 

Subhag, who belongs to the SC community, says he will vote for the Congress party’s candidate.

Prasad — A Familiar Face Hoping to Oust Incumbent 

Sixty-eight-year-old Prasad was a senior leader of the BSP before he joined the Congress in March this year. He was elected to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly from Bansgaon twice in 2007 and 2012 on a BSP ticket. He was the first runner up of 2004 and 2019 general elections as a BSP candidate.

SP President Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed a well-attended  rally in his support on May 28 at Barewa village of Deoria district.

Ram Badan Boudh, a Congress functionary and in-charge of the constituency, has been distributing his party’s guarantee cards — carrying details of the 25 promises signed by President Mallikarjun Kharge and former president Rahul Gandhi.

He says, “I worked with the BSP to carry forward the mission of Manyavar Kanshi Ram for 27 years; and that is why, I was picked by the Congress party. While distributing the guarantee cards, I visited around 200 villages dominated by SC communities. Many of the villages have Baudh Vihar — a proof that Ambedkarite ideology has spread to the remote corners of the state.”

He claims that these Ambedkarite Dalits, who used to be the core vote bank of the BSP, are shifting to the Congress party to stop the BJP.

“The women I met told me that if we vote for Mayawati, the BJP will win; and I think, it is a big achievement for our party,” adds Boudh, who is based in Lucknow and is associated with real estate business. 

Maya Gives Chaya to Everyone

However, ground realities in Dalit settlements contradict Boudh’s claims. A resident of Dadiha village of Bansgaon’s Rudrapur Assembly segment, Laxmikant, who is a Jatav by caste, claims himself to be jack of all trades. As evidence, he shows this reporter a plastic crate — which has instruments and spare parts for repairing vehicle. 

“Apart from electrical appliances such as the fridge, washing machine, television, etc., I can repair any two or four wheeler with these instrument,” he says with a sense of pride.

When asked about his political preference, he says that it is only the BSP, which can work for the upliftment of everyone. “Maya gives Chaya (shade) to everyone, irrespective of their caste and class.” 

Though a New Face, Dr Samujh is Not Light Weight

The former Income Tax department’s commissioner is a lesser known figure in Bansgaon Lok Sabha constituency if compared to both Prasad and Paswan. However, this is not the first election for Samujh as he has already contested from UP’s Khajni Assembly seat on a BSP ticket in 2012.

He has also authored a few books such as ‘Reservation Policy- Its Relevance in Modern India’. 

The 75-year-old says he is contesting the election on the issues of high inflation, unemployment, equal education opportunities and reducing the growing chasm between the rich and the poor etc. 

Indradev Ambedkar, who is a zila panchayat member in Deoria, declares, “People are not going to elect Kamlesh Paswan this time; they are angry with him; he was chased away a few days back while campaigning.” 

Ambedkar, who has been campaigning for Samujh, alleged that when people went to meet him at his residence, he turned them away, saying they had not voted for him but for Prime Minister Modi; and therefore, they should go to Delhi to get their grievances addressed.  

Attacking Prasad, he says the BSP government appointed him a minister, but he “betrayed” and left the party just before the elections. “He will be slapped by his own symbol, i.e. Hand,” he opines.

BSP supremo Mayawati appealed to people to vote for her party candidate at a rally held at the Champa Devi Park of Gorakhpur on May 25.

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