For former scribe Mukul Tripathi, tragedy struck not once, not twice, but three times over.
The 40-year-old was left shattered after three accidents left him physically challenged, ending his hopes of a medical career. Now, pitted against External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid from the Farrukhabad seat in western Uttar Pradesh, the journalist-turned-politician who joined the Aam Aadmi Party December last year is out to make symbolic use of his personal difficulties.
For, the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, the NGO managed by Mr. Khurshid and his wife Louise, was accused by former Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of large scale anomalies in distribution of aid to the disabled. Mr. Tripathi is the son of retired High Court Judge Justice
R.S Tripathi and studied and lived across cities in U.P. It was while in Allahabad in 1986 that he faced the first of three accidents. Though shocked and bed-ridden, he persisted and travelled to Moscow to pursue medical studies but only to face another accident there. On his return to U.P., tragically, he faced another accident, this time in Lucknow.
Subsequently, he discontinued medical studies and joined the journalism field in 1998, starting out as a reporter in Gorakhpur with Hindi daily Rashtriya Sahara, before working with Amar Ujala in Meerut, the place of his birth.
He terms his seven-year stint in Lucknow between 2004 to 2011 as his best. While Mr. Tripathi is not the only journalist-turned-politician in the AAP's first list of Lok Sabha candidates, by his own admission, his shift into politics has been congruous with his "anti-corruption motto" and life experiences. He credits himself with numerous sting operations as a journalist while in Lucknow.
The most appreciated, according to him, was in 2009, when he broke the lid of a racket on adulterated edible oil in the city. "The story led to the suspension of 12-13 officials and the story was followed up nationally" he says.
The same year, he won the Shresth Viklang Karmi Award for his campaigns for the physically challenged. Like has been the strategy of poet-turned-politician Kumar Vishwas, who is challenging Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi on the issue of development,
Mr. Tripathi is banking on raising livelihood concerns in Farrukhabad.
He hopes to use his journalistic know-how to locate the grievances of locals. "There is no commitment to development. Only the goondai and wasooli (extortion) culture of netas. The people are angry," he said.
While the AAP appeals to the urban voter, its reach in rural UP will be put to test in the elections. With a keen understanding of this matrix, Mr. Tripathi has his eyes set on campaigning for the betterment of workers in the tobacco cottage industry and potato farming. Kaimganj, in Farrukhabad is nationally known for its chewing tobacco industry and also as a potato hub (official figures out production at 8 million tones).
Mr. Tripathi alleges that the incumbent MP doesn't visit often and is inaccessible. If elected, he promises to make himself more "accessible" for the public by setting up district level booths, which will circulate his numbers for assistance.
Despite his resolute, the task is daunting, he admits. But he is ready to ready to toil. "I don't have resources like him (Mr. Khurshid). But I will expand whatever energy I have." The Samajwadi Party's Rameshwar Singh Yadav and the Bahujan Samaj Party's Thakur Jaiveer Singh are the other challengers from Farrukhabad.