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Adding verse to rhetoric, Cong's Imran Pratapgarhi tests poll arena in Moradabad

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 18, 2019  | 12:53 IST

By Abhishek Shukla Moradabad (UP), Apr 18 (PTI) Just 32, a YouTube star and a poet who wraps his messages on conscience voting, secularism and women in fiery verse, Congress candidate Imran Pratapgarhi is the politician with more than a slight difference. The young man's poetry has always been political but he steered clear of mainstream politics, until recently when he became Congress president Rahul Gandhi's choice to contest the Lok Sabha elections from this parliamentary constituency. Pratapgarhi, who takes his name from Pratapgarh in the state, about 500 km from here, decided to write his political destiny from Moradabad, the land of legendary poet Jigar Moradabadi. "I am trying my best to not let the votes get divided. This is not about Muslims. I am appealing to every one troubled by the politics and policies of BJP," Pratapgarhi told PTI. The newbie is up against sitting BJP MP Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar, an influential Thakur and five-term MLA from the area, and the SP-BSP-RLD candidate, former mayor S T Hasan, who has a loyal base of supporters and managed over three lakh votes in the 2014 'Modi wave' election. Seen as a David among Goliaths in the poll arena, Pratapgarhi is confident of a win in the April 23 election. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and SP president Akhilesh Yadav have held rallies to galvanise their respective support bases, but Pratapgarhi is trying to first test his own abilities. Asked why top leaders of Congress are not coming for his support in contrast to BJP and 'gathbandhan' leaders who are campaigning in and around Moradabad, he said, "I requested them to come during the fag end of the campaign. Till now, I am trying to test my own abilities to take on this challenge." The administration, he added, is scared of his rising popularity and has disrupted at least three meetings. "They are delaying permissions for meetings, arresting our workers, stopping meetings at the last moment as the state government is scared of my popularity. They may have some sort of understanding with the local 'gathbandhan' candidate," he alleged. Pratapgarhi said his political journey started eight months ago when the Congress president asked him to contest elections. "I convinced myself to take on this challenge. When (UP unit chief) Raj Babbar came to know, he offered me the chance to contest from here and went to Fatehpur Sikri," he said. And while the results of the election are in question, he does seem to have struck a chord with the YouTube generation that follows his work. At 8.30 pm one night recently, Mohammed Tasleem finished his 11-hour shift in a casting factory to reach the main square of the brass artisan colony 'Chakkar Ki Millat' along with hundreds of others. "I have seen many videos of his on YouTube. That's why I came along to hear him," said Tasleem. The three lakh odd brass artisans are an important deciding factor in the constituency. While men in the locality crowded into the square, women lined the rooftops to get a vantage view of the makeshift stage that was been set up. The air was abuzz with speculation. When he did arrive after a 45-minute delay, he delivered a speech laced with couplets, much to the delight of the crowd. Pratapgarhi said the the fight is not only to save the social fabric of the country but also their profession affected by GST and demonetisation. Underscoring that the Congress is a challenger to the BJP rather than SP-BSP-RLD grand alliance, he reminded the gathering that the fight is not for Lucknow but for the top seat in New Delhi. Whether the crowd comprised those curious to listen to him as a poet or those who want him to be a leader will be known on May 23, when votes for the seven-phase Lok Sabha election will be counted. PTI ABS MIN MIN

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