Despite gradually transforming from a sleepy town into an emerging neighborhood with showrooms of multinational companies in its main city, Gonda’s politics have remained the same over the years and UP polls this time are no different. .
It continues to revolve around two former princely states and local strongman Brij Bhushan Saran Singh, the BJP MP from Kaiserganj. Gonda heads to the polls in the fifth phase of UP assembly elections on Sunday.
The storyline in the UP polls here has become more interesting as for the first time after 1984 the descendants of two former princely states of Bargadi Kot and Bhabhuwa Kot gathered in Colonelganj, one of Gonda’s seven assembly constituencies . The two were once rivals.
The change came after the BJP denied its incumbent Colonelganj MP Ajay Pratap Singh ‘Lalla Bhaiya’ the ticket for the UP polls. It belongs to the former princely state of Bargadi Kot.
Instead, the BJP fielded Paraspur bloc pramukh Ajay Kumar Singh, who does not belong to any royal family and is considered close to Brij Bhushan Saran Singh.
Lalla Bhaiya has given her support to Samajwadi party candidate, Yogesh Pratap Singh, who belongs to the former princely state of Bhabhuwa Kot.
“The two princely states of Gonda have buried the hatchet in an effort to defeat the BJP candidate of Colonelganj,” says Anupam Shukla, a local lawyer from Gonda.
The influence of this alliance between the two former princely states on the other constituencies of the Gonda assembly will only be clear after the proclamation of the election results on March 10.
Over the years, Colonelganj assembly constituency has been the stronghold of Bargadi Kot and Bhabhuwa Kot.
Kaushlendra Singh, a political observer and social activist from eastern Uttar Pradesh, said the two big rivals came together to maintain their influence in Colonelganj and prevent an outsider (BJP candidate) from winning the seat.
The royal factor is also seen, although somewhat differently, in the Gonda constituency of Mankapur.
BJP MP for Gonda Kirti Vardhan Singh, who belongs to the former princely state of Mankapur, is spearheading the campaign of Social Affairs Minister Ramapati Shastri, Mankapur’s party candidate.
“Winning in Mankapur depends on which side the (former) princely state is on,” says Someshwar Singh when asked about the candidates’ prospects.
Another interesting battle unfolds for the assembly seat of Gonda, where Prateek Bhushan, son of Brij Bhushan Saran Singh, faces a challenge from Suraj Singh of the Samajwadi party, nephew of the late Pandit Singh.
In 2017, Prateek Singh won his first election, garnering 58,254 votes to Suraj Singh’s 41,477 votes.
Mohammad Jaleel Khan of the Bahujan Samaj Party won 46,576 votes. As Khan is deceased, his supporters, especially Muslims, in all likelihood will vote for the Samajwadi party.
This new political scenario has made it difficult for Brij Bhushan Saran Singh to secure the second consecutive win for his son.
Agreeing to speak after much insistence, Rai Singh Prasad Upadhyay, who runs a confectionery at Maharaja Agrasen Chowk in the heart of Gonda city, said: “There must be change this time. Nothing has changed in the past five years.
He also praises the late Vinod Kumar Singh aka ‘Pandit Singh’.
Singh died last year during the second wave of Covid-19. He was known as the face of Samajwadi party in Gonda district.
“Anyone could easily approach him (Pandit Singh). He was available to help anyone at any time,” says Upadhyay.
Muslims have a significant presence in the Gonda district. But they alone cannot have an impact on elections like in the neighboring districts of Bahraich and Balrampur.
In Katra Bazar constituency, BJP rebel Vinod Shukla, now the BSP candidate, could play spoilsport for the ruling party.
As elsewhere, in Gonda too, there is a direct struggle between the BJP and the Samajwadi party.
The BJP won all seven Gonda District Assembly seats in 2017 but repeating that performance will not be easy this time around as the resurgent Samajwadi party is fighting hard against the ruling party in all constituencies.