With three stars in Lok Sabha, BJP makes inroads in the Bhojpuri belt

Azamgarh MP Dinesh Lal Yadav Nirahua meeting Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow.

Azamgarh MP Dinesh Lal Yadav Nirahua meeting Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Akhilesh huye farar, Nirahua datal rahe” (‘Akhilesh Yadav absconded, Nirahua stood his ground’). This is how Bhojpuri actor Amrapali Dubey celebrated the victory of co-actor Dinesh Lal Yadav Nirhaua in the recent Azamgarh Lok Sabha poll. The earthy song that became the leitmotif of Mr. Nirahua’s election campaign referred to the fact that Mr. Nirahua, who was trounced by the Samajwadi Party (SP) president in 2019, waited for his time and when Mr. Yadav vacated the seat for the Karhal Assembly seat, he defeated Mr. Yadav’s cousin, Dharmendra Yadav, in a close fight, denting the Yadav vote bank of the Mulayam Singh Yadav clan.

In the process, Mr. Nirahua has become the third Bhojpuri superstar to be a Member of Parliament on a Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) ticket, the others being Ravi Kishan from Gorakhpur and Manoj Tiwari from northeast Delhi. After the victory, posters of Ganga Jamuna SaraswatI, a 2013 film that featured all three actors, went viral. In fact, the first thing that Mr. Nirahua did after the victory was to thank his peers for their support.

“This is a unique feat, not matched by any other film industry and would help in developing the cultural heritage of the region,” an elated Mr. Kishan, who considers himself senior to the other two actors, said. “We were close to different parties but the Prime Minister Modi carefully worked on us, followed our work, and brought us into the party fold.”

While Mr. Nirahua was considered close to the SP after he was given the Yash Bharti award in 2016, Mr. Kishan contested the 2014 Lok Sabha poll on a Congress ticket.

“We represent the pride of 25 crore Bhojpuri speaking people spread across the world,” Mr. Kishan said, in a reminder of the important part played by Varanasi’s Bhojpuri speaking electorate in getting Mr. Modi elected from the holy city.

“While the Congress and the Left played the politics of appeasement, the BJP is working on the development of the region,” noted Mr. Kishan, who has bought a house in Gorakhpur and runs a film academy in the city. “As actors, we have this knack for reading and reacting to emotions but we can’t bring any grassroot change. The training helps us as public servants as it is our job to listen to the pain of the people and provide remedy.”

Mr. Kishan said the victory will augment his efforts to bring a private member Bill to make Bhojpuri a part of the Eighth Schedule. “The language has a vast literature and a distinct grammar and script, and deserves space in the Eighth Schedule,” he said.

Cultural commentator Ajay Brahmatmaj said that after Maithili made the cut for inclusion in the Eighth Schedule, Bhojpuri’s claim could not be ignored. “When a language makes it to the Eighth Schedule, it gets Constitution-mandated benefits. And actor-politicians are best placed to give voice to the demand. Unlike most Hindi film stars, these three actors come from modest backgrounds and started their careers as folk singers before becoming abhineta (actor) and neta (political leader),” Mr. Brahmatmaj said.

He added that if the BJP conceded to the demand, the party will find even more traction in the Bhojpuri belt. A day after the election result, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath talked of the rich heritage of the 600-year-old Hariharpur gharana of classical music in Azamgarh and said proposals would be invited in consultation with experts to help artists and revive interest in music lovers.

The actors have also been instrumental in giving shape to the upcoming ‘Film City’ in Jewar. “It will not only help in making quality Bhojpuri films but also ensure that the youth will not have to travel to Mumbai to fulfil their dreams. Mumbai is still an expensive city for people from east U.P. and Bihar,” Mr. Kishan said.

Unlike the other two actors, Mr. Kishan’s body of work is pan Indian. He has worked with renowned names the film industry like Mani Ratnam, Shyam Benegal and Anurag Kashyap, whose world view doesn’t appear to match the party Mr. Kishan represents. When asked, in the context of the BJP’s relative lack of interest in the Muslim vote, if he differentiated between audiences who bought tickets to his films, Mr. Kishan said they were not expected to indulge in Hindu-Muslim politics. “In fact, after becoming an MP, when I once used harsh language against a Muslim MP of an Opposition party, I was told by the top leadership that it was not expected of me,” he said.

As for his ongoing competition with Mr. Tiwari, Mr. Kishan said there was no scope for it as the party kept a strict watch on them.

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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 8:49:17 am |