While the main contest in Madhya Pradesh that goes to the polls on November 17 is between heavyweights BJP and Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has staked a claim by fielding 66 candidates. Prakhar Pratap Singh, 25, the AAP candidate from Gurh segment in Rewa district, is the youngest nominee this year. He is contesting against the Congress’s Kapidhwaj Singh and the BJP’s Nagendra Singh, the incumbent MLA. An architect, Prakhar left the US to return and fight elections. Excerpts from an interview:
Why leave your job in the US to fight polls here?
I went for a five-year Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. Afterwards, I got a good job and worked there for almost two years. But I realised that whatever I do for the rest of my life, it has to be in India, in my hometown.
How difficult is it to get into politics for first-timers?
Several generations of my family have been involved in jan seva (social work). People in Rewa know us and have great regard for my grandfather and father.
Did you approach other parties like the BJP and Congress?
The AAP has accepted me and given me a chance to fight on its ticket. But I never saw myself joining the BJP or the Congress as they are too big, irrespective of their vichardhara (ideology). Members of my family used to be involved with both parties. I didn’t even consult them before making the decision, for which my father stopped speaking with me for three days.
When the AAP was launched in 2013, everybody used to doubt it. But he (Arvind Kejriwal) did it (formed the government) in Delhi thrice, in Punjab too, and is now creating ground in other parts. I had a meeting with our sangathan mahamantri (national general secretary-organisation) Sandeep Pathak, who explained that being educated people, we’re sometimes too sensitive to competitive agendas and run away from our own agenda. That convinced me to make up my mind to contest the elections.
How does it feel being the youngest candidate in the state?
I haven’t dwelled upon it, nor do I think it makes any difference. At my age, everything is at its peak — your jazba (passion), commitment and energy are all high, while you can also understand everything around you because your mind has developed completely. So it’s good if it’s used in the right way.
You are fighting against 79-year-old incumbent Nagendra Singh of the BJP.
Unlike me and my family who are born and brought up here, my opponents don’t belong here, nor have they lived here. Even in power for years, they haven’t done much work. I know people who can guide me due to my family’s goodwill. That’s how I’ll take this battle forward.
How did you present your case for the party ticket?
I launched my campaign through advertisements, meeting people on the ground, addressing jan sabhas, getting influential people along and using my family contacts. It’s not only the candidate who fights an election, but multiple layers of people who come in support to make them winnable. So I gathered all those badges and presented my case. Once the ticket was confirmed, I worked tirelessly to set up party offices and other network points.
Key issues in Gurh?
76 years after Independence, with 70 years of elections behind us in which the Congress and now the BJP has won this seat multiple times, the issues remain the same. We still don’t have good public education facilities, drinking water across Gurh, good hospitals, etc. Not even a hospital that can give an emergency patient first aid, stabilise them enough to transfer them to better hospitals in nearby towns.
We have the infrastructure for schools and hospitals. But earlier, elected representatives came just for the votes. They were never seen on the ground. We need a local who treats the area like his home and works non-stop. I want to be the medium of this change.
Several AAP leaders are in jail, and even Kejriwal is facing ED summons.
You know it’s damage control for them (BJP). They have to stop AAP anyhow. In fact, people say this isn’t even a question. They say, ‘Bhaiya, ab to yeh Kejriwal ke peeche bhi pad gaye hain (now they are after Kejriwal too)’. Because they know what the AAP is going to do. They arrested Sanjay Singh a day before he was supposed to be in Rewa. But AAP is now a vision. You can’t kill a vision. There will always be people to run the show.
Has AAP deviated from its core values and commitments over time?
I am one of the newest members of the party. Even I have those doubts. Obviously, there is cut-throat political competition. At times, even my integrity is questioned. But AAP is unstoppable, and will change the face of India in the future.