New Delhi, April 8 :
He used to be a Marxist who later took to Dalit activism before quitting his Indian Revenue Service job where he was four years senior to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. Udit Raj is now the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate in Delhi’s North West constituency.
Having joined the party only in February, Udit Raj has hopped from one election rally to another across his constituency, trying to make the most before the Thursday Lok Sabha polls in the capital.
“I have never been asked any awkward question as to why I joined the BJP or why anyone should vote for it,” Udit Raj told IANS.
An Indian Revenue Service officer of 1988 batch, he started his career in 1990, four years ahead of Kejriwal, who has worked in the same government department.
He remembers Kejriwal from his early days in office. But these reminiscences are only to the extent that Udit Raj’s wife is also senior to Kejriwal’s wife, both of whom are in the income tax department.
Now political rivals, he calls Kejriwal a “theoretical type” and “over ambitious”.
Udit Raj entered social service in 1997. Six years later, he resigned from government service and started working on social issues full ime.
It is, however, his association with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) that makes him most nostalgic. He was a member of the Students Federation of India (SFI), aligned with the CPI-M, for years on campus.
From SFI to BJP? He says he took the ideological plunge as he felt the party was ready to give space to Dalits in all fields. But most of his JNU friends are furious with him.
Udit Raj is pitted against former Delhi minister Rakhi Birla of the Aam Aadmi Party and Krishna Tirath of the Congress. But Udit Raj is supremely confident of winning.
A contrasting study is Maheish Girri, the BJP candidate from the more populous East Delhi constituency.
Born in Nashik into a Brahmin family, Girri has studied upto Class 10. He forayed into the Himalayas when he was 17 years old and lived in Badrinath for nearly seven years meditating.
He also lived in Gujarat for some time during which he first met Narendra Modi, now the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Girri has worked in the social service sector and has been associated with initiatives to save the girl child. He is also passionate about saving the Yamuna river. He was with the Art Of Living for 17 years.
Like Udit Raj, he also knew Kejriwal, but as a participant in the anti-corruption campaign led by Anna Hazare in 2011.
“We designed that campaign in the initial days,” Girri told IANS. “It was I who coined the word Jan Lokpal.”
A resident of Delhi since 2008, Girri says he wants to turn his constituency into a “model area”.
He wants to focus on improving small-scale businesses and providing job opportunities for the poor. He wants to make Delhi safer for women. And he has other dreams as well.
Girri faces two formidable opponents: AAP’s Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and Sandeep Dikshit, the outgoing MP and son of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit.