Ravi Kishan, a Bhojpuri superstar and a familiar face in Hindi films, is the BJP's candidate to win back Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's former parliamentary seat that went to an opposition candidate in a stunning bypoll upset last year. The 49-year-old actor senses the weight of the responsibility.
Yogi Adityanath, who is also the head priest of the Gorakhnath temple, held the seat for two decades. In a huge shock to the BJP in bypolls, joint opposition candidate Praveen Nishad won the seat, giving Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati - bitter rivals for years -- a reason to extend their successful enterprise to the national election.
Why Ravi Kishan, who contested and lost as a Congress candidate in the 2014 election?
"Yes I was thinking why me. Since 2007 I have been campaigning for the BJP pan-India. Maybe because I am a boy from Jaunpur, a priest's son, from a very, very ordinary family...My family is from Gorakhpur. The BJP must have known my hard work. I am very lucky. I'm speechless."
The actor admits he still can't believe the "high command" showed such faith in him.
"I am completely blank right now. How am I going to face all that...It's a huge war. I am going to talk about my PM straightaway."
Ravi Kishan, seen touching Yogi Adityanath's feet after being named as the BJP candidate from Gorakhpur, has said there is "no challenge" to him. Last time's winner, Praveen Nishad has since crossed over to the BJP, and the Samajwadi Party has fielded Rambhual Nishad; the Nishad community has a sizeable presence in Gorakhpur.
In his previous outing in 2014, Ravi Kishan managed only about 4 per cent of the votes in Jaunpur, a Bhojpuri stronghold, for the Congress.
"That time the leher (wave) for (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi was so strong. Imagine, this time it is a tsunami. The Congress had no identity in Jaunpur. It was my unplanned decision. I went from shooting and fought the election because it was my emotional commitment to someone. I paid the price for that. But it was a huge Modi-ji, Modi-ji wave. I feel that tsunami right now."
He refuses to talk about the Congress or its chief Rahul Gandhi. "I don't have to talk bad about anybody...It's all about Modi right now. I am very sorry but I will be very honest...The maturity, it's a huge country, to run this country...I can go on talking about Modi-ji, I don't want to talk about anyone else."
Gorakhpur will vote on May 19, the last round of the seven-phase Lok Sabha election. The results will be announced on May 23.
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