Monk who loves controversies, embroiled in tough battle

Monk who loves controversies, embroiled in tough battle

Firebrand Hindutva leader and BJP nominee Sakshi Maharaj. File photo

Clad in saffron robes, this monk turned politician may be invoking the gods and warning the electorate that failure to vote for him will invite divine wrath but many here feel that he faces a tough battle in this Lok Sabha constituency this time owing to the Samajwadi Party (SP)-BSP alliance and a resurgent Congress.

Firebrand Hindutva leader and BJP nominee Sakshi Maharaj, who is the sitting MP from this seat, is known more for making controversial remarks than anything else and even die-hard supporters of prime minister Narendra Modi said that the monk has done precious little for the constituency during the past five years.

''But for Modi, Sakshi Maharaj would not have even been in the contention here....he has done nothing for the area,'' remarked Rakesh Awasthi, a resident of Unnao, about 60 kilometres from here.

In fact, such was the resentment of the people against Sakshi Maharaj that even the BJP leadership was reluctant to renominate him this time. The MP, however, threatened to revolt and ultimately the saffron party gave in.

The constituency has a large number of OBC voters and Sakshi Maharaj hails from an OBC community and hence the BJP leadership had no option but to field him again.

BJP leaders here are banking on Modi's popularity to win this seat again. ''There is no challenge to us....its a poll for choosing who rules at the centre...only Modi matters,'' says district BJP general secretary Anurag Awasthi.

The rivals, however, are trying to encash resentment against the sitting MP. ''People want change...they do not want an MP like Sakshi Maharaj,'' claims local SP leader Rajesh Yadav.

Muslims and upper castes are the deciding factors in Unnao. While a majority of the upper caste voters appear to be backing the BJP, the Muslims seem inclined toward the alliance candidate Aruna Shankar Shukla.

Congress nominee Anu Tandon too is quite popular and had represented the seat in 2009. ''Anu Tandon has been active in the area even after losing in 2014,'' says Aftab Alam, a resident of Mohan town in the constituency.

In 2014, Sakshi Maharaj had won by a margin of over three lakh votes. The SP and the BSP nominees had then secured over two lakh votes each. The Congress candidate had also secured 1.97 lakh votes.

It remains to be seen if Sakshi Maharaj is able to get the divine blessings. The seat goes to polls on Monday.

Total Electorate-22 lakh

2014 winner Sakshi Maharaj (BJP)

Runners up-Aruna Shankar Shukla (SP)

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