BSP may field godmanís wife from Mirzapur

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is likely to field Priyanka Pandey, wife of Chinmayanand Bapu, a Hindu seer who gives religious discourses worldwide, for the Lok Sabha election from Mirzapur. This is the first time that the BSP is seriously considering fielding a woman from a deeply religious background, in an election.

UP has seen several Hindu religious men and women contesting elections, most of them were fielded by the BJP. They included Swami Chinmayanand, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Sakshi Maharaj, Mahant Awaidyanath, his disciple Yogi Adityanath, and sadhvis Uma Bharti, Niranjana Jyoti, Savitri Bai Phule. On one occasion, the SP fielded Sakshi Maharaj in the Rajya Sabha election.

Bapu (32), hails from Gaipar village in Mirzapur district and is a regular visitor at his ancestral village. He has a large following and is often travelling to deliver discourses, mainly the Ram Katha. His wife Priyanka Pandey is addressed as Gurumata by his followers.

Ram Asrey Bharti, Mirzapur district president of BSP, stated that officially the candidate would be declared on December 16 and Priyanka Pandey was the frontrunner. "If it is a Brahmin candidate, she is sure to bag the ticket", Bharti stated.

Bharti said that Priyanka's victory was sure if she contested on the BSP ticket. Locals said Priyanka was now regularly seen on the stage along with her husband during the programmes in Mirzapur.

At present, Mirzapur is represented by Bal Kumar Patel of Samajwadi Party, who is the brother of slain dacoit Dadua. However, Patel's name does not figure in the list of 63 candidates declared so far by the party.

Presently, the BSP and the Congress have one Assembly seat each while the SP has three Assembly seats in Mirzapur district. One of the SP legislators, Kailash Chaurasia, is Minister of State for Basic Education and Child Development.

Chinmayanand Bapu was born Uday Prakash. His Ram Katha draws huge crowds and his followers call him Rashtriya Sant. He runs Vishwa Kalyan Mission Trust and a Ram Parivar Sewa Samiti, both at Hardwar.

Bapu is close to yoga guru Swami Ramdev, who had visited his religious gatherings in Mirzapur in 2011. He is also a regular on several religious TV channels. Unlike other Hindu seers, Chinmayanand is not always clad in saffron robes. During his religious discourses, he usually appears in designer embroidered, laced sherwanis.

His ashram in Hardwar said they have no information whether Priyanka Pandey will contest the Lok Sabha election. An official said that Bapu was travelling and it was hard to contact him.

"Bapuji is presently in Banswada, Rajasthan, for Ram Katha. From there, he will go to Etawah and will return to the ashram in Hardwar on December 23. Then only we will be in a position to say anything,'' said an ashram official, who identified himself as Anoop.

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