To his supporters, Kesses MP Swarup Mishra is a philanthropic lawmaker who has changed their lives.
To his critics, he is a bully who always wants to have his way. And the two sides of the MP were demonstrated this week after he was captured on a viral video haranguing a senior police officer for not making it to a function to distribute food to the poor on time.
Apparently, irked by the lack of adequate attention from the officer, the MP, who admitted losing control of his anger, dressed down Ms Cecilia Kemboi, the Kesses Deputy OCPD, in a manner that caught many off guard.
“We are not the jokers here; you are not disciplined,” he told a senior police officer on call.
“We don’t want you here. I can’t work like this. This lady is saying she was not aware of this meeting yet we’ve been waiting for two hours. She should leave or I leave. Now she is showing me (her) back. She is standing in front of me showing me her ***. How can I work?”
On this occasion, Ms Kemboi was the unfortunate victim of a rarely known side of the lawmaker. The MP berated her for arriving late for a meeting in his constituency.
Ms Kemboi was apparently not aware of the meeting meant to identify the elderly constituents to benefit from food donations in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Despite his popularity, however, Dr Mishra, a trained obstetrician and the owner of the Mediheal Group of Hospitals, which has branches in Eldoret, Nakuru, and recently expanded to Nairobi, is known for being a no-nonsense leader, tough as nails, and easily angered by those he feels do not measure up.
He gained fame ahead of the last elections for quashing a long-held local belief that a non-Kalenjin can never win any political seat in Kalenjin land, and definitely not an MP seat.
“Amunee boisiek, amunee chepyosok, amunee lagok, amunee tuga, kainenyu ko Kiprop arap Chelule orenyu ko Chepkendiot (How are you all men, women, children, and how are your cows? My name is Kiprop arap Chelule, and my clan is Chepkendiot),” Dr Swarup Ranjan Mishra’s unique voice reverberated over the hills and valleys of Uasin Gishu ahead of the 2017 General Elections.
As the residents of Kesses prepared for yet another fiery political campaign period that year — for years characterised by political chest-thumping, empty promises and massive splashing of cash — a rare but easily distinguishable voice hit their airwaves, making the majority of them attentive and curious.
To identify with the locals, Dr Mishra adopted their language, a local name and a clan.
After capturing their attention, he made a bid for their psyche, pledging his allegiance to regional political supremos, particularly Deputy President William Ruto, who called the shots in the larger Uasin Gishu.
“Arap Kenyatta kityo, Ruto kityo, (It’s only (Uhuru) Kenyatta), only (William) Ruto,” the political newbie would say as he quickly charted his way through the jammed political arena by showing the eager voters that he was cut from the same cloth and was ready to sing the political tune they loved most.
Then, President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were close political mates and their Jubilee Party the only outfit anyone could think of in the area.
With his unique voice and style of politics, he easily forged a relationship with the many voters, who were hungry for change.
Month after month, his support base grew, initially out of curiosity, but soon as a result of popular support after he netted the support of Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi.
“I am more Kalenjin than the Kalenjins,” he once told this newspaper.
True to his words, he crushed his opponents, including incumbent James Bett, in the Jubilee primaries. He won by such a huge margin that those who opposed him were shocked.
With slightly over 23,000 votes, his closest challenger, Isaac Terer, a former Uasin Gishu speaker, scoring just over 5,000 votes.
Others, including Allan Kosgey, the son of former minister Henry Kosgey, and former MP David Koros, got less than that.
Come the General Election and Dr Mishra’s success, for many, was by how many votes, not whether, he would win.
At the time, winning the Jubilee Party ticket was akin to already being declared the winner in the elections, and so Dr Mishra easily won the August 2017 polls, scooping 45,089 votes and decimating his challenger, Kanu’s Cornelius Kipkorir, who got slightly over 2,000 votes.
For a man born in Orissa, India, in 1965, and who came to Kenya just 21 years ago, the political achievement was beyond the expectations of most, especially those in the political establishment who had quickly poured cold water on his ambitions in the belief that the majority of locals would never allow anyone perceived to be an outsider to lead them.
Other than speaking their language, he also dished out a range of goodies, including promising one cow for each household if elected.
He later revised the pledge to one cow for every poor household.
Now under fire for the attack on a senior police officer, Dr Mishra is quickly realising that power and influence is best kept under wraps, seen, but not heard.
As the video did the rounds on social media, he rushed to Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Abdirizak Jaldesa’s office to offer his apologies.
Mr Jaldesa, in turn, banned food distribution by politicians in the area, saying they went against the order to stop mass gatherings during the Covid-19 outbreak.
This, though, is not the first time the lawmaker is finding himself in the dark side of social media. Recently, he had to defend his hospitals after some people linked them to a kidney-smuggling cartel.
Dr Mishra is the National Assembly’s Health Committee vice-chairman, and he threatened to resign if the accusations persisted.
Last year, a resident claimed he had been misguided by the MP while seeking cancer treatment in India, but the lawmaker pushed back, saying he had played a greater role in seeking better appointments abroad for his accuser.
Dr Mishra believes he has weathered the storms, and is reported to be planning to run for a higher office in the future. For now, however, he says his heart beats for Kesses.