BJP's fist-free minister confers notoriety on UP constituency
The fear of violence has stalked voters ever since an Uttar Pradesh minister brought Pratapgarh into the national limelight for the wrong reasons.
With a history of repolls in almost every election, an uneasy
calm prevailed in the area on Saturday, as campaigning ended in
the constituency which is considered to be one of the seven most sensitive in the
The Allahabad high court on Friday gave UP Programme Implementation
Minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiyya, clearance to go
ahead with canvassing for Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Ram Vilas Vedanti.
Barring 1962, when Rana Ajit Pratap Singh won this seat on a
Jan Sangh ticket, this constituency has never returned the BJP at
the hustings. The party also does not represent any of its five
assembly segments -- Bihar (reserved), Garhwara, Kunda, Rampur Khas
and Sadar -- in the Vidhan Sabha.
Twice represented in Parliament by then Union minister Dinesh
Singh, there are 17 candidates in the fray this time.
The main contestants are the late Dinesh Singh's daughter Ratna
Singh (Congress), Abhay Pratap Singh (Samajwadi Party) and Jai Singh (Bahujan Samaj Party) besides
Vedanti who had won from Machhalishahr last time.
The SP candidate, after a rather slow start,
had intensified campaigning, but the political tussle between Ratna
Singh and Raja Bhaiyya has pushed all contestants to the background.
Raja Bhaiyya, who represents Kunda in the state assembly, allegedly slapped a police officer on duty; his
supporters then attacked Ratna Singh's motorcade early this
month. The Election Commission then called for the minister's externment
from Pratapgarh till the election.
The UP minister is a scion of the erstwhile Badri state, and has
been a political adversary of his distant relative, Ratna Singh of the former
Raja Bhaiyya's taking over the reins of Vedanti's campaign has embarrassed
BJP workers. Senior district BJP officials reveal that only half the party cadre was seriously involved in the campaign.
The denial of a ticket at the last minute to Udai Raj Misra, who
contested from here in 1996, also failed to enthuse many local
By comparison, Ratna Singh is a non-controversial figure who
defeated Misra by 33,887 votes in the last election.
Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Pramod Tiwari, who represents Rampur Khas in the Vidhan Sabha and has a lot of influence in the area, has actively campaigned for Ratna Singh.
The influence and muscle power Raja Bhaiyya commands in Kunda and Bihar assembly segments has put the administration on tenterhooks.
Both District Magistrate Rama Raman and police chief Rajiv Ranjan
Verma say stern action will be taken against lawbreakers, regardless of what position (s)he/they hold.
Two hundred and seventyfive of the 821 polling centres and 526
of the 1,412 polling booths in the constituency have been identified
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