Am No Stranger to Moradabad: Urdu Poet Imran Pratapgarhi, Cong Candidate

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Imran Pratapgarhi is Congress candidate for Lok Sabha election from Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh.

I am fighting my election in Moradabad. I am more concerned with local issues in my constituency. There are issues like backwardness in education and negligence towards famous brass industry of the city.

INTERVIEW

Nisar Siddiqui | Caravan Daily

POPULAR Urdu poet Imran Pratapgarhi is Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha from the Western Uttar Pradesh city of Moradabad. He has been awarded ticket after actor-politician Raj Babbar opted out of the race, reportedly sensing defeat.

Pratapgarhi, a recipient of UP’s highest literary honour Yash Bharti Award, is hugely popular and his participation in Mushairas (soirees) attracts large crowds. He has made raising issues of secularism and plight of Muslims his signature poetry style. But as he has earned following among youth in small towns, educated classes dismiss him as populist and cheap.

His plunge into politics too has raised many an eyebrow. He talks about his political agenda and prospects in an interview with Nisar Siddiqui. Excerpts:

Given the current nature of politics in Uttar Pradesh, which planks will you enter into politics with?

I am fighting my election in Moradabad. I am more concerned with local issues in my constituency. There are issues like backwardness in education and negligence towards famous brass industry of the city.

For the last 20 years, no MP from the city has raised these issues properly on the national platform. I want to help establish a quality university in the city. Besides, the brass industry of the city, which earns a huge chunk of foreign exchange for the country, has suffered apathy of political leadership. It deserves attention. A big problem which the industry faces is insufficient supply of the electricity.

Frequent police raids on small units scare away labour. If I get elected as a parliamentarian from the city, I will try to bring various government schemes linked to small scale industries. Plus, I will try to ensure that the brass industry gets adequate electricity supply and on subsidy. These are local issues I want to start with. As far as my national vision is concerned, like all good citizens of the country, I am perturbed with hatred finding a stable space in our society and polity. I want to see the incumbent BJP government unseated.

I am a poet and speaks the language of love and my canvass is quite wide. I am contesting from Moradabad, which is the hometown of Jigar Moradabadi, who was a poet of love. Jigar sahab came to Moradabad from Balrampur and I have come here from Pratapgarh. I wish Moradabad embraces me like it did to Jigar.

You admit being an outsider to the city. You have come from East UP into the heart of West UP. Your dialect is different and despite all your efforts, it must have been difficult to grasp the genuine understanding of the local issues here. How will you cope with this tag of being an outsider?

Issues are everywhere, whether it is East and West, are the same. I don’t think it would matter that I have come from outside. I am a recipient of a state award and consider myself a son of the entire state. If Akhilesh Yadav can go from Itawah and contest in Azamgarh and Narendra Modi can choose UP’s Varanasi as his constituency, why I should be questioned on being an outsider.

On a poetic note, I would say that Mein Zilon Mein Nahin, Dilon Mein Rehta Hoon (I don’t live in districts, I dwell in hearts of people).

I articulated my understanding in my first answer. Besides, you will see that people of Moradabad are fed up with inefficiency of incumbent MP, Sarvesh Singh of BJP. They want change.

Imran Sb, people say that you have been parachuted by Congress as filler after senior leader Raj Babbar opted out the race here. There was news that you were lobbying for the ticket from here but you were denied and only after Babbar refused to contest, your name was considered. Trolls on social media are active a gamut of memes on you poo-poohing your candidature? What will you say about this?

See, social media has given pace to all sorts of people and they keep spurting out whatever opinion or filth in the name of opinion. I don’t give enough attention to them. Raj Babbar wanted to contest from Fatehpur Sikri and he made his intention clear to the party. The party then decided to field him from there and I was given responsibility here. I respect party decision.

Why did you choose Moradabad and not any other city?

To be truthful, when I was thinking of contesting Lok Sabha polls, of places, only Moradabad struck my mind. It is a city of zindadil (live-hearted) people. I have a huge following among the youth of the city. I have come here to participate in mushairas for so many times and have witnessed people’s love for me. I hope Moradabad will accept me as its son and I will respect that relationship throughout my life.

Imran Sb, people say that when Asaduddin Owaisi went to contest Lok Sabha polls in Bihar and Assembly polls in UP, he made dents into Muslim votes and BJP candidates benefited because of the split in Muslim votes. Similarly, it is believed that you will cut into Muslim votes here and the SP-BSP alliance candidate, who is being seen as a favourite, may suffer. What do you say?

It is up to the gathbandhan not to field a Muslim candidate against me. I will say that the gathbandhan is making a dent into my vote bank by fielding a Muslim candidate. Congress has decided its candidate for the city before the alliance finalised its. That way, the onus of this question is on the alliance.

Imran Sb, you have a popular poet. You have a huge following and regularly participate in mushairas. Poetry is your first love and even a profession. How will you strike balance between poetry and politics?

I am like a taza hawa ka jhonka (like a fresh whip of wind). Perhaps I will take sometime to adjust to politics. But it’s not that I have not been associated with social issues. I have raised social and political issues in my poetry. I have been part of several social campaigns. I have been part of the campaign to trace missing JNU student Najeeb. I have worked to raise awareness against mob lynchings. I am a poetic, emotional person. I have never been very political and perhaps even being in politics, I will remain the same. I will be able to serve the people only in this way. A person whose emotions die can’t serve society.

Imran Sb, you have rightly said that you have been raising social and political issues in your poetry. Actually, it is said about literary people that it’s difficult to detach them from social sensitivities. In your poetry, you have targeted political parties like BJP, SP, BSP and even Congress. In 2009 when Congress was in power at the Centre, you had recited a nazm (poem): Mat joro madarson ko atankwad se (Don’t link madarsas with terrorism). Can we expect that poet Imran Pratapgarhi will continue to be as sensitive to political realities as he was before political debut?

For the last 10 years, I have been highlighting issues of social importance in my poetry. I have received a lot of adulation and a name for myself because of this. But after these many years, I have realised that merely earning respect and name is not enough. I will have to be an active participant in social change. That’s why I have decided to join politics.

Earlier, I used to merely do verbal service to social causes, now I will directly participate in them. I will not change on this front. As far as Congress party is concerned, it knows how to adjust literary people, starting from Ramdhari Singh Dinkar to Imran Paratapgarhi. The party provides space to people who their own mind on social issues. I have Rahul Gandhi on many occasions. He directly asks my opinion on the working of the party. He knows how to trust the opinion of others. I like this quality of the party and that’s why I am part of it.

Who do you think will be your rival in Moradabad – gathbandhan or BJP?

I am in direct fight with the BJP.

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