The ‘Modi wave’ has competition from within the BJP in saffron stronghold Gorakhpur. And it is called the ‘Yogi wave’.
Politics in the Gorakhpur region has revolved around the Gorakhnath Math after its chief priest, Mahant Adityanath won his maiden Lok Sabha poll in 1998. Referred to as Chhote Maharaj or Yogi, he formed the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) to spread the hardcore Hindutva ideology in Poorvanchal or east Uttar Pradesh.
Portraits of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi adorn banners and hoardings put up almost everywhere in this town and beyond. But he is overshadowed by the Yogi and the foot soldiers of HYV, physically and metaphorically.
Volunteers of HYV have turned the area into an impregnable fort Adityanath. They have also been campaigning for him across villages and collecting information from locals about the activities of SP, BSP and Congress rivals.
More than BJP activists, Adityanath is dependent on HYV, considered his private army. Though top BJP leaders say Hindutva is passé and their main issue is development, HYV volunteers are raising contentious issues like construction of Ram temple, ban on cowslaughter, common civil code and abolition of Article 370.
They spread Adityanath’s through street corner meetings in villages and various localities in the town. There is little or no reference to Modi, as they hard-sell Adityanath, telling the voters he would play an important role if NDA comes to power.
“In the rest of UP, BJP is riding on Modi lehar (wave) but in Gorakhpur it is Yogi wave,” says RK Mishra, an academician in DDU Gorakhpur University. “When BJP performed below par in 2004 and 2009 elections, Yogi held forth. He also put the neighbouring seats of Bansgaon and Azamgarh in the kitty of BJP.”
Rival parties too have trained their guns more on Adityanath’s HYV than Modi. “We are trying to counter the Yogi’s Hindutva approach,” says SP candidate Rajmati Nishad. BSP’s Ram Bhuwal Nishad and Congress’ Ashtbhuja Prasad Tripathi have a similar agenda.