How BJP won back Gorakhpur a year after crushing defeat to SP-BSP combine
The chief minister, who shared this story in an informal conversation with journalists, said he immediately summoned senior officials to his Kalidas Marg official residence and directed them to organise a video conference the next day with district administrators.Updated: May 26, 2019 11:25 IST
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was watching television late in the night, after campaigning for the general election had already begun. A woman rooting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on the programme: ‘We have a message for Yogi. He should control the menace of stray cattle, which is destroying our crop.”
The chief minister, who shared this story in an informal conversation with journalists, said he immediately summoned senior officials to his Kalidas Marg official residence and directed them to organise a video conference the next day with district administrators.
The state government issued directives to the districts that all stray cattle were to be moved to cattle shelters, for which funds had already been released.
“Four lakh cattle — abandoned cows and buffaloes — were moved to the shelters. Had we not taken urgent steps, people would have been unhappy,” Adityanath said.
That was just one of the challenges the UP government confronted on the administrative level — farm distress, erratic power supply and the execution of the many central welfare schemes were some of the others — even as it battled the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-Samajwadi Party (SP) combine on the political and electoral front.
The first instalment of Rs 2,000 under Modi’s farm income support scheme — PM-Kisan, which offers Rs 6,000 a year to small and marginal farmers in three instalments — reached more than 10 million people within weeks of its notification. Many also received the second instalment in their bank accounts.
“The execution of Prime Minister’s flagship schemes also helped in neutralising whatever negative image of the state government was built by the opposition. The government ensured there was no discrimination in the selection of beneficiaries,” a senior official said.
Informally discussing the BJP’s victory in Gorakhpur, his pocket borough, Adityanath admitted that he had been concerned over poor management of the election in the initial days. “I then decided to take command (of the campaign) in my hands instead of changing the candidate as some people had suggested,” he said.
Not only did he avenge the humiliating defeat in his stronghold last year to a candidate backed by the BSP and SP, he also led the BJP to victory in all nine seats in the division. It is the first time in 40 years of Gorakhpur’s political history that a Bhojpuri film star, Ravi Kishan, who does not belong to the Gorakhpur mutt headed by Adityanath , has been elected to the seat.
At the booth level, the blueprint of management was laid out by party president Amit Shah. This, coupled with prompt administrative action by the government on public grievances, helped the BJP win 62 seats (of the total 80) and muster 50% vote share despite the challenge posed by the SP-BSP-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance.
The BJP also toppled the Congress bastion of Amethi, the pocket borough of party president Rahul Gandhi, who was defeated by Union minister Smriti Irani.
At the end of it all, Adityanath baiters who had been demanding a change in the state’s leadership had been silenced and the knives sheathed.