Rahulís man fights from green plank

Located on the banks of the Ami river, this constituency in eastern Uttar Pradesh is witnessing a rather unusual election campaign by a nominee of Rahul Gandhi ó one centred around pollution and environment with economic, cultural and political overtones.

Vishwa Vijay Singh, 39, has launched many agitations under the banner of the Ami Bachao Manch over the past three years to save the river from industrial effluents that threaten the local flora and fauna besides posing health hazards. He once led a mob that beat up a senior environment department official with shoes, blackened his face and made him wear a saree.

Today, a proud Singh declares at Bhiti Khori village ground that Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan has sanctioned a Rs 300-crore project for the Ami, on the banks of which Sant Kabir had renounced life (his samadhi in Maghar is just a few kilometres away), Guru Nanak had spent some time while travelling, and Prince Siddhartha had shed his royal clothes on the way to becoming the Buddha.

"If you cannot fight without a post, you cannot fight with a post," he says. "I had told Rahulji that if you want me to contest, get the government to do something. I am proud to say that the Government of India has done it. Give me one name who can get a Rs 300-crore project from the Government of India even without being an MLA. If anybody else has done it, I would say vote for him. But for once, rise above caste and religion and vote for who you think can fight for the development of Sahajanwa," Singh tells a responsive crowd.

"There should be a debate on pollution and environment in elections just like bijli, paani aur sadak," says Singh who, besides his agitations, is known also for his overnight stays in poor villagers' houses.

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