Beat this dynasty: Vermas eye 10th LS win

While the Gandhi, Karunanidhi, Pawar and other high-profile political clans may make the news more often, there is another 'dynasty' in a remote constituency in the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills that has won nine of the 12 elections since 1962. While the patriarch has won four times, and his wife twice, the son is eyeing his fourth consecutive win from Kheri on May 13.

And unlike some other scions, Ravi Prakash Verma, a Samajwadi Party candidate, is also unusually active in Parliament. While Rahul Gandhi asked only three questions, Verma raised 1124, possibly the maximum by any MP, during the 14th Lok Sabha.

The active parliamentarian, however, also presides over one of the poorest but resource-rich districts of the country. "It's true that even though my family has been active in this area for so long, we couldn't make Kheri a Delhi or a Mumbai, but it still scores over the neighbouring districts of Bahraich, Hardoi, Sitapur and Pilibhit," he says.

Before him, his parents—Usha and Bal Govind Verma — won the seat as Congress candidates, but he chose to go in a different direction. "In the Congress also, my parents were socialists. When it moved away from such ideals and adopted a free market economy, I joined the SP," he says.

Pitted against Verma are three multi-millionaires — the BJP's Ajay Kumar, Congress's Zafar Ali Naqvi and 75-year-old Iliyas Azmi of the BSP.

Kumar, incidentally, has been accused of many offences, including the murder of local trader Prabhat Gupta, a case in which an appeal is pending in the High Court.

Kumar counters," These are false cases. I was never detained even for a second and never went to jail. I have already been acquitted in the Gupta case."

Verma insists: "None of the parties could afford to lose a strong candidate against me, hence they have fielded weak ones."

But Verma is not entirely secure this time, as the BSP is catching up on this seat, where Dalits and Muslim constitute nearly 50 per cent of the votes. In 2004, Verma won by a narrow margin — the BSP candidate got 30.12 per cent of the votes, against Verma's 31.7 per cent.

Verma's BSP rival also points at the backwardness of the area. The Centre has launched Multi-Sectoral Development Programme for districts with minority concentration and Kheri is one of them. "He is a good person, but did nothing for the area. People are tired of their family rule," says Azmi.

"Kheri is among very few districts of UP, which still do not have meter gauge rail line. Every year floods cause heavy destruction here but no measures are made," says Kumar, who is contesting his maiden election.

The BJP also feels that Muslim votes, which earlier went to the SP, are likely to be split this year among the candidates of the Congress and the BSP - both belong to the minority community — only to benefit Kumar. "The real contest is between the BJP and the BSP," says Kumar, also acknowledging the importance of Dalit votes.

Verma says he does not agree. "Mayawati has polarised the Dalits. Earlier people expressed concern for them, but now they maintain a distance. Realising this, Dalits are moving towards other parties."

Kheri, Uttar pradesh

Key candidates

Ravi Prakash Verma, Samajwadi Party

Ajay Kumar, BJP

Zafar Ali Naqvi, Congress

Iliyas Azmi, BSP


2004: Ravi Prakash Verma, SP

1999: Ravi Prakash Verma, SP

1998: Ravi Prakash Verma, SP

1996: Gendan Lal Kanaujia, BJP

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