Lucknow Jansatta Dal Loktantrik (JDL) chief and sitting MLA from Kunda assembly seat in Pratapgarh district, Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, who is known for winning elections back-to-back, is now facing tough competition in his own turf from the candidates of rival parties announced for the forthcoming state Assembly elections. Kunda assembly seat will go to poll in fifth phase on February 27.
Raghuraj has been winning the assembly elections as an independent candidate from Kunda seat for the last six terms –1993, 1996, 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017. Be it the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) wave in 2007 or Samajwadi Party (SP) in 2012 or Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) wave in 2017, he has been defeating his rivals with comfortable margin of votes.
The SP has been giving walk over to Kunda MLA in the assembly polls. His equation with SP leadership could be gauged from the fact that he was minister in Mulayam Singh Yadav government (2005-2007) and Akhilesh Yadav government (2012-14)
But the scenario has changed in 2022 Assembly polls after the SP fielded former nagar panchayat chairman of Kunda, Gulshan Yadav, who was earlier a close aide of Raja Bhaiya. The BJP has also fielded a strong candidate, Sindhuja Mishra, the wife of Shiv Prakash Mishra Senani, who had earlier contested the assembly election on BSP ticket against Raghuraj. Besides, the BSP has fielded Mohammad Fahim, a member of the zila panchayat.
However, Kunda MLA has launched an intensive election campaign in his constituency to counter the rival parties. To take the fight to the rival parties’ turf, he has given tickets to 20 candidates from JDL party from different constituencies. Independent MLA Vinod Saroj is contesting election on JDL ticket from Babaganj assembly seat in Pratapgarh district.
Raja Bhaiya, a scion of Bhadri estate, launched JDL in November 2018, and to mobilise party cadre for the assembly elections, he launched ‘Jansewa sankalp yatra’ across the state in July last year.
Kailash Nath Mishra, the general secretary of JDL said, “Raghuraj had won the Kunda seat in 2007 with over 50,000 votes, in 2012 he defeated his nearest rival by a margin of over 80,000 votes and in 2017 assembly elections, his victory margin was above 1 lakh votes. This time too, he will win with comfortable margin.”
A teacher at Pratapgarh Government College, JP Mishra said, “In earlier elections Kunda MLA got OBC and Muslim community votes as the SP did not field its candidate, but in the coming assembly elections the SP will campaign hard to check his successive victory.”
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has made victory in Kunda a prestige issue, his relationship with Raghuraj soured after 2018 Rajya Sabha election when he allegedly cross voted in support of the BJP candidate, he added. “In November last year while campaigning in Pratapgarh, Yadav was asked to support Raja Bhaiya in the assembly election, but he had replied ‘who is he, whom are you talking about,’ giving clear indication that the SP has closed door for the Kunda MLA,” the teacher said.
Meanwhile, a BJP leader, Samresh Singh said, “In the zila panchayat chairman election held last year, JDL candidate Madhuri Patel defeated BJP candidate Kshama Singh by a big margin. The BJP will like to settle its score with Raghuraj in the assembly elections. The relationship of Raja Bhaiya with his bete-noire Congress leader Pramod Tiwari has improved. Tiwari, who earlier represented Rampur Khas assembly in the legislative assembly, has considerable influence in Pratapgarh district. JDL hopes that Congress might support its candidates in the assembly elections.”