Bypoll loss to LS win: How Yogi Adityanath turned game changer
Heading a BJP government in the state (the saffron party won a near two-thirds majority in the 2017 state polls), Adityanath was seen as having failed to delivered his pocket borough of Gorakhpur to the party.Updated: May 24, 2019 09:16 IST
When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost two key by-elections in eastern Uttar Pradesh in March last year, the spotlight was squarely focused on chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Heading a BJP government in the state (the saffron party won a near two-thirds majority in the 2017 state polls), Adityanath was seen as having failed to delivered his pocket borough of Gorakhpur to the party.
The seat, which had been held by the BJP for close to three decades including by Adityanath for five terms, was won comprehensively by a joint opposition candidate. In two other high-profile bypolls, Phulpur and Kairana, the fate of the BJP candidate was similar.
But on Thursday, with the BJP winning 62 of the 80 seats of the state, the chief minister moved from a position of embarrassment to one of strength and could take credit, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah, for delivering India’s largest state to the saffron kitty.
What would have come as added cheer for the 46-year-old was the victory in his former seat of Gorakhpur – by political novice and Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan with a margin of more than 300,000 votes.
In Gorakhpur, he had packed in 28 rallies.
During the election campaign, Adityanath addressed 137 rallies, a majority of them in UP, and remained in the news with controversial catchphrases such as ‘Modi ki sena’ and ‘Ali vs Bajrang Bali’.
Local BJP leaders say his speeches helped pump up the nationalism pitch fronted by Modi, and countered caste-based appeals by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav.
“Opposition leaders, including Mayawatiji and Azam Khan, immediately sought to make their case that they liked both Ali and Bajrang Bali but by then Yogiji had managed to establish his line that he was proud of his Hindu lineage,” UP BJP spokesman Chandramohan said.
Experts agreed. “If Modi, in his 29 rallies in UP, played the ‘vikas purush’ (development-oriented leader), Yogi played the Hindutva card as part of a plan to counter caste politics. Together they ensured that the voters were fed nationalism,” said Athar Siddiqui of the Centre for Objective Research and Development.
First Published: May 24, 2019 00:06 IST