All eyes on Yogi Adityanath as BJP national executive meet begins in Bhubaneswar | india-news | Hindustan Times
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All eyes on Yogi Adityanath as BJP national executive meet begins in Bhubaneswar

As the two-day BJP national executive meet starts in Bhubaneswar on Saturday, all eyes are on Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath who has created a buzz in this temple city.

india Updated: May 19, 2017 22:45 IST
Rajesh Mahapatra and Kumar Uttam
BJP
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath arrives to pay tribute to Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar on his 126 the birth anniversary at Ambedkar Mahasabha in Lucknow, on April 14, 2017. (Ashok Dutta/HT Photo)

As the two-day BJP national executive meet starts in Bhubaneswar on Saturday, all eyes are on Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath who has created a buzz in this temple city.

An indication to his ascension in the party hierarchy came from the choice of posters inside the venue — one on the dais showing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party president Amit Shah, former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee and senior leader LK Advani and another on the opposite side of the hall showing Adityanath surrounded by leaders at his swearing in ceremony.

While posters outside the Janata Maidan venue showcase all 13 party chief ministers, Adityanath’s is the only one inside – quite a change in the profile of a leader who had walked out of the last executive meet in a huff as he was not allowed to speak. It’s not just workers and leaders who are talking about the UP CM. The response of the people on the streets reflects more than mere curiosity.

“We are waiting to see him (Adityanath),” said 47-year-old Burjaya Acharya, a resident of Bhubaneswar. “God has picked him to serve the country.”

Once regarded as a leader of eastern UP — or Gorakhpur, to be precise — the 44-year-old’s profile shot up after his ascension as the chief minister last month. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he is the most sought-after BJP leader in the campaigning for the Delhi municipal polls.

Read | BJP’s Odisha meet: Naveen Patnaik’s fortress under threat from the lotus

His model of governance that seems to be a copy of that of Modi’s at the Centre is getting noticed even in Bhubaneswar, more than 1,200 km from Lucknow. “He is taking decisions quickly. You need leaders like him,” says Tukku, a taxi driver from Puri.

The BJP’s national conclave, to be attended by about 300 leaders, is likely to see party leaders showering encomium on the prime minister and Adityanath for the party’s unprecedented success in UP. While Modi will be, as usual, the star attraction in Bhubaneswar, party leaders are eagerly awaiting Adityanath’s maiden speech at the party forum after becoming the chief minister.

Modi and Shah have set their eyes on unconquered territories, Odisha being one of them, to win the 2019 Lok Sabha election. India’s eastern coast disappointed the BJP in the last election, despite a steady increase in its vote share. On landing at Bhubaneswar airport, Amit Shah was offered a garland of 74 lotuses – 74 being the majority mark in 147 member assembly.

Shah wants this growth in popular support to translate into seats for the BJP in states such as West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

There are many imponderables that come in his way though. These states have long been the strongholds of regional parties. The BJP might be on upswing in these states but it still has a long way to go to garner the critical mass required to upstage the regional outfits. In Odisha, for instance, the BJP is enthused by its performance in the recent panchayat elections but its tally still fell far short of the ruling BJD’s. The BJP has a long way to go in building grassroots support in coastal Odisha, a BJD stronghold. Cognizant of the BJP’s expanding footprints, chief minister Naveen Patnaik has already swung into course-correction.

The BJP wants to increase its numbers from these states but UP that sent 73 NDA MPs to the Lok Sabha in 2014 remains the party’s electoral backbone. While that explains the importance of a UP chief minister, Adityanath’s rapidly growing popularity outside the state could lead to a subtle change in the party’s pecking order. Bhubaneswar could set the tone for that.