Yogi Adityanath, the star campaigner is drumming up support for the BJP in western Uttar Pradesh. But his die-hard supporters are working overtime to defeat the party of their leader in eastern parts of the state.
Known as Hindu Yuva Vahini, the right-wing youth outfit that Yogi floated in 2002 has decided to field candidates in 64 constituencies of eastern UP against the BJP. They are doing this to ‘’punish’’ the BJP for “sidelining” their leader by not projecting him as the CM face in the ongoing seven-phase UP polls.
Strangely, the 44-year MP from Gorakhpur is dismissive of the rift, let alone its impact on the state polls. But the expelled leaders of his ‘private army’ claim to have Yogi’s blessings.
On February 8, Yogi addressed hundreds of Vahini workers at Digvijai Nath College, one of the many educational institutions run by the Gorakhnath Math in Gorakhpur. The meeting was boycotted by the dissenting group led by state president Sunil Singh and general secretary Ram Laxman.
“Jisko kachre ki tarah nikal bahar kia hai, uski kisi bhi tippani pe humein kuch lena dena nahin hai (We have nothing to do with someone (Sunil Singh) we have thrown out like garbage),” said Yogi, the Mahant – head priest of Gorakhnath Math – ahead of the meeting.
The rift was out in the open on January 27 when the Vahini released its own list of six candidates. Two days later, Sunil and Laxman were sacked by orders trough a letter citing Yogi’s instructions for their “anti” outfit activities. The Vahini has so far released 24 candidates and claimed to have forged an alliance with the Shiv Sena to contest on 25 seats.
On Feb 8, Sunil, on way to the outfit’s core committee meeting in Sant Kabir Nagar’s Khalilabad, refused to budge.
“He (Yogi) has been a five-time MP. Doesn’t he deserve a union ministry when those who could not make it to the Lok Sabha were made HRD minister,” explained Sunil referring to former HRD minister Smriti Irani. He said their suspension was “unconstitutional” and that Yogi was being “used” by the party.
“Yeah sab kaala jaadu hai (It’s all black magic). We are fighting for Yogiji. He is my Ram and I am ‘Hanuman’. We will destroy BJP’s Lanka if our demands are not met,” he added.
There have been internal grudges against the BJP every time UP polls draw near. But this time, the revolt is out in the open after their wish of seeing Yogi as BJP’s CM face was not granted.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini may not be a political outfit, but it has been largely instrumental in Yogi’s rise – from a student leader to five-time MP —transforming him into a mass leader of the region. The saffron muffler-clad Vahini workers are notorious for blowing up minor incidents into a communal issue.
“Before Yogi was anointed, the outfit was confined to Gorakhpur. Today it has a strong base of dedicated workers spread across Deoria, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar and Siddharthnagar,” said Manoj Singh, a social activist. These districts are considered the firebrand leader’s stronghold where the Vahini enjoys considerable sway.
No wonder then, Yogi’s winning margin for the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat rose from 7,000 votes in the 1999 general elections to 1.42 lakh votes in 2004 and over 3 lakh in 2014 general elections.
The assembly elections over the years show a different pattern. From more than 21 seats during the Ram Mandir movement in 1991, the BJP has not won more than seven seats in ten districts of eastern UP in past two elections.
Apart from the rift, the BJP is also faced with resentment among people for distributing tickets to “outsiders”.
Some conspiracy theories about ‘sulking’ Yogi stage-managing the rift to show his importance are also doing the rounds. Some even say long-time Yogi confidants like Sunil Singh have started harbouring political aspirations after standing behind him for 15 years.
“People like Sunil, like many others, who have dozens of cases registered against them, want to move on from the streets to politics,” said a member of the Vahini.