In UP’s aonla land, stage set for a triangular contest - Hindustan Times
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In UP’s aonla land, stage set for a triangular contest

By, Prayagraj
May 24, 2024 06:26 AM IST

Pratapgarh constituency, where former ‘Rajas’ held sway over politics for decades, has moved forward at a swift pace, leaving behind its royal history.

The laidback, sleepy Pratapgarh constituency, 200 km from Lucknow, has long been associated with ex-royals. Erstwhile royals have won and reached Parliament from this constituency (known for its aonla or Indian gooseberry production) 10 times since independence till 2009. However, the shifting political sands, newer planks, emerging issues and other factors have made the former royals bow out from a region where they once held sway, making way for the commoners. Another reason is that political parties are no longer interested in fielding former royalty.

The busy Thateri bazar of Pratapgarh (HT Photo)
The busy Thateri bazar of Pratapgarh (HT Photo)

Former Union foreign minister Dinesh Singh, who belonged to the erstwhile royal family of Kalakankar estate, represented this parliamentary seat four times (1967, 1971, 1984 and 1989) as Congress candidate and his daughter Ratna Singh thrice (1996,1999 and 2009), also as a Congress candidate.

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Ajit Pratap Singh of the former princely Pratapgarh estate served as MP from here twice (1962 and 1980) and his son Abhay Pratap Singh once (1991). The third family, the Bhadri estate headed by Uday Pratap Singh, completed the Royal Trio.

However, the tide began to turn when Ratna Singh lost elections in 2014 and again in 2019. Raghuraj Pratap Singh aka Raja Bhaiyya, who is the scion of the Bhadri estate has so far stayed away from Parliamentary polls. But he remains influential and is a member of the UP assembly consecutively since 1993—winning polls from Kunda assembly seat a record seven times including six times as an Independent and the last time in 2022 as a candidate of his self-formed Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik).

Turn of the ‘commoners’

In 2019, BJP’s Sangam Lal Gupta won the seat and the saffron party has again fielded him for the 2024 polls. The SP has named Dr SP Singh Patel as its candidate, vying for the Kurmi votes. The BSP on the other hand has fielded Prathmesh Mishra, a Supreme Court lawyer and son of Shiv Prakash Mishra Senani, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Lok Sabha poll in-charge of neighbouring Kaushambi parliamentary constituency.

For some parties, the seat has remained a disappointment. The BSP has not been able to win any election from here even once. The SP managed to win in 2004 when it fielded Raja Bhaiyya’s cousin Akshay Pratap Singh, also a former royal. Pratapgarh which has a sizeable Kurmi population saw Apna Dal winning the seat in alliance with the BJP in 2014.

Five assembly seats

There are five assembly constituencies under Pratapgarh Lok Sabha seat, namely Rampur Khas, Patti, Raniganj, Pratapgarh Sadar and Vishwanathganj. In the 2022 assembly elections, the SP candidate had won from two seats i.e. Patti and Raniganj. Pratapgarh Sadar was won by the BJP and Vishwanathganj by its ally Apna Dal. The Rampur Khas seat has been held by the Congress for a long time, which remained intact even in 2022. Pratapgarh goes to polls in the sixth phase on May 25.

These five constituencies of Pratapgarh Lok Sabha seat this time have a total of 18,04,085 voters including 9,54,733 men, 8,49,341 women and 11 of third gender.

Caste assumptions

Pratapgarh has a sizeable Muslim population while Brahmins are also important electorate here. Kurmis, an OBC community, are also quite influential. As per the caste break-up , Brahmins account for 16% of the voters, second only to Dalits who account for 19% of the voters followed by Kurmis who forms 11% of the voters in Pratapgarh. Muslims account for 15% while the Yadavs and Thakurs make for 10% each even as others account for 21% of the voters.

Voters in Pratapgarh parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh have not elected the same party twice since 1989.

Lack of employment

Lack of adequate employment opportunities and industries remain the main issue for the residents, especially the youth here. No major industry or factory has come up in past years that could generate employment. Though a big producer of aonla, food processing industry here is limited to a handful, rue locals. The investor summits held under Yogi government have generated interests and proposals, but projects are yet to take shape on the ground, they claim.

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