Pilibhit Voting: Don’t Know who’s Jitin Prasad, We Know Only Modi

Instead, the BJP has placed its bet on Jitin Prasada, PWD Minister in Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, which has left many locals feeling disconnected and uncertain about the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

| Updated: 18 April, 2024 6:55 pm IST

Pilibhit: A known bastion for the BJP’s Gandhi family, Pilibhit is facing a political shake-up as the BJP alters its candidate lineup. Varun Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi, long-standing figures in the area, have been sidelined by the party leadership, causing uncertainty in this stronghold. Instead, the BJP has placed its bet on Jitin Prasada, PWD Minister in Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, which has left many locals feeling disconnected and uncertain about the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

Our team from The New Indian journeyed to Pilibhit, a small town about 100 kilometers from Bareilly in the Rohilkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. Along the way, we encountered a town steeped in history, sharing borders with Nepal and Uttarakhand.

Jitin Prasada, the BJP’s new face for Pilibhit, still needs to be discovered by the people here. While the “Modi Factor” continues to be a potent force, locals express mixed feelings about the change in candidacy. Many residents neither hold personal ties with Varun Gandhi nor harbor any grievances against him. However, the absence of his familiar name on the ballot raises concerns about the BJP’s prospects in Pilibhit.

 

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Babu Bhandari, a shopkeeper near the bustling Pilibhit bus stand said, “People here are neither happy nor upset with Varun Gandhi. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you they don’t know Jitin Prasada.”

“The BJP appears desperate here in Pilibhit. Denying Varun Gandhi a ticket could affect their vote share, as people are unfamiliar with Jitin Prasada,” said 45-year-old Mohammad Aslam, a motorbike shop owner.

“In a recent meeting, our workers refused to rally behind Jitin Prasada because we don’t know him. However, one thing is certain – the BJP will win big in this Lok Sabha election, he added.

Rajat Pandey, a young salesman pointed out the neglect of employment issue in the BJP government. “Any candidate will win under the BJP banner. But for youth like me, this government’s focus on employment is lacking. They prioritise other issues over jobs, but I still prefer BJP for its nationalism and commitment to Hinduism.”

Neeraj Saxsena, a local doctor, emphasised the dominance of the BJP in the region. “No one can rival the BJP’s strength here. Villagers will unanimously vote in Modi’s name. Jitin Prasada’s identity doesn’t matter.”

Despite these uncertainties, some residents remain steadfast in their support for the BJP, citing welfare schemes like the Prime Minister’s Housing Program and free grain distribution as reasons for their allegiance. “BJP may face challenges, but free grains and housing initiatives will ensure their victory remains unscathed,” said another local.

Since 1996, Pilibhit has been continuously represented by the BJP’s Gandhi family. Former Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun turned it into their pocket borough.

In the 2019 elections, Varun Gandhi secured a big win with a record vote share of 59.4%. The seat has witnessed shifts from the BJP to the BSP in recent elections.

The BJP, which has fielded Jitin Prasada, hopes to comfortably retain its bastion due to the “Modi Factor”.

The SP has fielded a five-time MLA from Nawabganj in  Bareilly, Bhagwant Sharan Gangwar, focusing on local issues, including farmers, schools, jobs, and amenities.

Pilibhit is set for a high-stakes contest in the first phase of the 2024 elections between two candidates new to the constituency.

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