These Bhojpuri stars depend on 'Modiji' for victory
Lucknow, May 9 : They are top Bhojpuri stars who have a huge fan following in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As they step into the hotbed of caste politics in eastern Uttar Pradesh, they are drawing huge crowds - crowds that dance to their songs, ask them to repeat one-liners from their films and jostle for selfies.
But will these crowds translate into votes for Ravi Kishan and Dinesh Lal Yadav 'Nirahua'? The actors, aspiring to be politicians, are sceptical themselves.
Both the actors are seeking votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in their constituencies.
"This election is for Modiji. It is not for a candidate. I am seeking votes so that Modiji can get another term. As a candidate I am not that important," says Dinesh Lal Yadav 'Nirahua' who is contesting against Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav.
Asked about his heavyweight opponent, Nirahua counters: "I tell people that I respect Akhileshji - he gave me a Yash Bharti award but we have to think about the nation and for that Narendra Modi is the best option."
In Azamgarh, which has four lakh Yadav, three lakh Muslim and around 2.75 lakh Dalit voters, people are enjoying Nirahua's presence.
"I go to each of Nirahua's meetings because he sings very well and I am his fan but when it comes to voting, I will go with Akhilesh Yadav because he is the 'bigger' Yadav," said Ramesh Yadav, a small-time shopkeeper.
The local BJP workers are happy because the Azamgarh battle has grabbed the media spotlight. "We are happy because the profile of the election has been raised," said one of them.
At the SP-BSP joint rally on Tuesday, BSP President Mayawati told her voters to vote for Akhilesh Yadav as if she was contesting the seat. This will obviously ensure Dalit voters for the SP President.
Ravi Kishan, on the other hand, is contesting form Gorakhpur with 'Modiji ka naam aur Baba (Yogi Adityanath) ka aashirwaad'.
"I have the name of Modi and the blessings of Yogi - this is enough for me to win the election," says Ravi Kishan rather confidently.
Gorakhpur, held by Yogi Adityanath for five consecutive terms, is one of the most prestigious seats for the BJP in these elections.
The prestige of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is directly linked to this seat, more so because the BJP had lost the seat to the Samajwadi Party in last year's by-elections.
The Chief Minister has spent two days in Gorakhpur, trying to muster support for Ravi Kishan.
The caste arithmetic that points to a sharp Thakur-Brahmin divide in the region (and was one of the reasons for BJP's defeat last year) is working against the actor who is a Brahmin while Yogi is a Thakur.
The Samajwadi Party has fielded Ram Bhual Nishad whose Nishad community in Gorakhpur is over 3.5 lakh strong. The Congress has fielded Madhusudan Tiwari who will cut into Brahmin votes.
"Ravi Kishan is not being taken seriously. People come to see him, hear him recite dialogues and take selfies. He had contested the Jaunpur seat in 2014 and ended up with merely 4.5 per cent votes," says Tishu Kumar, a computer engineer.
However, the presence of these two Bhojpuri stars in the polls has created a new market for their songs and films in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Azamgarh goes to polls on May 12 while Gorakhpur will vote on May 19.