Why 'Nishads' are so important in eastern UP

Why 'Nishads' are so important in eastern UP

BJP leader and Union minister J P Nadda greets Nishad Party leader and Gorakhpur MP Praveen Nishad after he joined the BJP, in New Delhi on April 04. PTI

Never before was a community wooed so much in eastern Uttar Pradesh as the Nishads (fishermen/boatmen) are for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

At stake are the votes of around 12% Nishads, who are spread in over a dozen Lok Sabha constituencies in different districts — including Gorakhpur, the home town of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanathnath — in the eastern Uttar Pradesh region.

Initially, it appeared that the Grand Alliance, comprising the SP, BSP and RLD, would be able to walk away with the Nishad votes giving jitters to the BJP.

After all, it was a Nishad (Praveen Nishad) who created a history of sorts by defeating the BJP nominee in the by-poll at Adityanath's bastion of Gorakhpur last year.

Praveen Nishad, whose father Sanjay Nishad was the president of the Nishad Party (NP), was certain to be renominated from Gorakhpur again. The NP had even joined the Grand Alliance and was given one Lok Sabha seat by SP president Akhilesh Yadav.

An alarmed BJP, however, went all out to woo Sanjay Nishad and managed to win him over, after which his party ditched the Grand Alliance and joined the NDA on Thursday.

Akhilesh quickly nominated Jamuna Nishad, another prominent leader of the community in the region, from Gorakhpur to level the electoral score with the BJP.

Nishads have a sizeable strength in Ballia, Bhadohi, Gorakhpur, Ghazipur, Mau, Mirzapur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Fatehpur and some other Lok Sabha seats and hence their wooing.

In fact, the bandit queen-turned-politician Phoolan Devi, who hailed from Nishad community, had won from the Mirzapur Lok Sabha seat twice in 1996 and 1999, mainly with the help of her community voters.

"Now, its BJP's Nishads vs Grand Alliance's Nishads in the eastern UP," said political analyst J P Shukla.

Speaking to DH, Shukla said that the Nishad votes were likely to split between the alliance and the saffron party.