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Adityanath leaving nothing to chance to win Gorakhpur back

Having lost his bastion in the 2018 by-polls, Yogi has pulled out all the stops to ensure the win of a political novice Ravi Kishan, who despite the glamour of a Bhojpuri star, will need his big push to upset the caste arithmetic of the alliance.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 18, 2019 08:37 IST
Rajesh Kumar Singh
Rajesh Kumar Singh
Hindustan Times, Gorakhpur
gorakhpur,yogi adityanath,crimes in UP
BJP President Amit Shah along with UP CM Yogi Adityanath and party candidate Ravi Kishan during a road show in Gorakhpur (ANI)

Gorakhnath Mutt located on Sonauli highway virtually works as a war room these days with chief minister Yogi Adityanath busy chalking out poll strategies along with a battery of ministers, BJP leaders and party office-bearers for Gorakhpur as well as adjoining Lok Sabha seats.

Having lost his bastion in the 2018 by-polls, Yogi has pulled out all the stops to ensure the win of a political novice Ravi Kishan, who despite the glamour of a Bhojpuri star, will need his big push to upset the caste arithmetic of the alliance.

The resurgent BSP-SP alliance has fielded former minister Ram Bhuwal Nishad (Nishad is a dominant caste in Gorakhpur) while the Congress’s nominee is a lawyer, Madhusudan Tripathi.

Interestingly, unlike the by-polls when the BJP candidate was not Yogi’s calling, Ravi Kishan is also considered to be the CM’s choice and thus many are linking the poll outcome with his personal prestige.

‘How can someone who has been third in demand (next to PM and Amit Shah) for campaigning across the country afford to lose in his home seat,’ is the common refrain in the city.

And as Gorakhpur is considered the second most exalted seat after Varanasi for the party in the state, others are pitching in too. On Thursday, BJP president Amit Shah held a roadshow while on Friday, Smriti Irani took charge and held a road show on ‘scooties’.

‘Chotey Maharaj’ (popular name of Yogi Adityanath) is camping in the mutt for 10 days now, personally monitoring the election campaign,’ says Surya Mani Tripathi, a BJP worker. Alongside his focus is also on the entire Gorakhpur division, which has six Lok Sabha seats. The last two phases are considered crucial for the party’s overall tally because of strong presence of alliance support base. Admitting Yogi’s stake in the region, political analyst Manoj Singh says, “BJP’s claim of 300 plus seat in the country and 74 plus in Uttar Pradesh is part of its strategy to win over support of indecisive voters. The alliance enjoys the crucial support of Yadavs, Muslims, Dalits and Nishads, a reason for the BJP to worry.’

The BJP has been winning the Gorakhpur seat since the 1989 Lok Sabha election, with Adityanath and before him his mentor Mahanth Avaidyanath defeating the rivals convincingly. Yogi vacated the seat after becoming chief minister in 2017.

The by-poll held on the seat in March 2018 is considered to be a watershed in the state politics, as not only the BJP lost its stronghold but the result paved the way for the BSP-SP to stitch an alliance for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

Considered a laboratory of the Hindutva brigade, Gorakhpur had turned into a test centre for the alliance of the regional political parties that were trounced by the saffron brigade in the 2014 general election as well as the 2017 assembly elections.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati have repeatedly said that they decided to go for an alliance in the Lok Sabha election after their joint candidate defeated the BJP in its strongest seat of Gorakhpur in the by-poll, that too when Yogi was the chief minister.

Meanwhile,Yogi has mobilised the party’s resources to turn the tide against the alliance this time.

The Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), a firebrand organization floated by none other than Yogi himself, was disbanded after he became chief minister in March 2017. It has been reactivated now. The HYV cadre are organisaing door to door contact in the villages and towns, giving minute to minute feedback of the party’s and opposition’s campaign to the CM. Leader of HYV PK Mall says, “The organisation has a widespread network in east UP and is back in action to win the support of the voters.”

“Yogi has directed the party cadre to increase the polling percentage as low polling percentage in the by-poll led to the defeat of the BJP,” says BJP leader Dharmendra Singh.

Also, Yogi is keeping a watch on all the issues that can impact the polling. The other day, soon after he received information that people residing in Medical College area whose houses had been demolished for the expansion of a road are angry, he called on the residents and assured them of compensation for the land acquired.

Aware that the Nishad community vote will be crucial in winning the seats, he gave a jolt to the alliance by getting the local NISHAD party into the BJP fold. Just before the Lok Sabha elections, Alliance candidate Praveen Nishad, who defeated BJP candidate Upendra Shukla in the by-poll, joined the BJP along with his father Sanjay Nishad, president of NISHAD party.

In his public meetings, Yogi is highlighting the development schemes -- the construction of highways, restarting of a closed fertilizer factory, starting of the Pipraich sugarmill, construction of AIIMS, widening of roads, measures taken to control encephalitis and the Metro project for instance.

“There is intense fight between the BJP and the alliance for the Nishad community vote. No doubt Ram Bhuwal Nishad is an influential leader of our community but Sanjay Nishad, also a tall leader, is moving around seeking support for the BJP. Our vote will be decisive in deciding the fate of the candidates,” says Ram Avadh Nishad of Bijara village.

Trader Umesh Kumar Gupta says, “The rivalry between the Thakurs and Brahmins is continuing for decades in the region. To win the Brahmin support, Yogi roped in Ravi Kishan, who belongs to the community. Also senior Brahmin leaders Shiv Pratap Shukla and Dinesh Sharma are campaigning in Brahmin dominated villages.”

Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not addressed any public meeting in the constituency ever since the polls were announced. His last visit was on February 24 to launch the KiSAN income scheme.

Political observer Rajesh Singh says both the rivals are working on the caste calculus to win the election. “By winning the seat, the BJP plans to send a message that along with anti-incumbency it has managed to make inroads into the opposition vote bank. The alliance is also working to retain the seat to send a message that as in the bypoll Gorakhpur belongs to it now.”

First Published: May 18, 2019 03:22 IST

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