The Muth in Gorakhpur was uncharacteristically silent, with policemen protecting its doors and staff whispering about what might have gone wrong. Virendra Singh sat behind the typewriter at the office used by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath when he stayed at the Muth. He distanced the Muth from the defeat.
“Is peeth ki tulna kisi party se nahi ki ja sakti. BJP ki astha hai ki nahi pata nahi. Par logon ki mandir se astha hai. Peeth ki haar log Hindu samaj ki har mante hain… Lekin is bar larayi kuch aur thi,” Virendra said.
A young man next to him said, “What more could Maharaj have done? All that was left was to pour his heart out. But the fact remains that this election was not contested in his style. Had it been the case, we would have again won by huge margin.”
Both said the loss is not of the Muth. Instead, “dhokha ho gaya”, they said, an indirect reference to the overconfidence of BJP leaders.
Of the two setbacks the BJP received in Uttar Pradesh, Gorakhpur delivered an obviously bigger blow than Phulpur. Last won by Yogi, Gorakhpur had been won by the party for last 27 years, including by Yogi himself for 20 years. Phulpur, on the other hand, had gone to the BJP only once since Independence, when current Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya won it in 2014, the first. “Phulpur pehli baar jeete they… Gorakhpur lagatar jeet rahe hain.. Jahan chook hui usey dekhenge,” the deputy chief minister said.
The SP’s Praveen Nishad (4.56 lakh votes) won Gorakhpur by 21,961 votes against BJP zonal head Upendra Dutt Shukla (4.34 lakh). Praveen, an engineer, is the son of Sanjay Nishad, chief of NISHAD party. The Congress had fielded a city gynaecologist and a Bengali Brahmin, Surheeta Kareem.
Some 6 km from the Muth is a small office of NISHAD party, where sweets were distributed until 11pm. Sitting next to an old almirah, on an old chair covered with white towel, Sanjay Nishad could not stop smiling. The party chief and winner’s father told tells his workers, “Alliance jeetne ke liye hota hai. Bahut lar liye. Daon pech lagana hi rajniti hai.”
He asked his son over to the office, which is in a semi-constructed building with their home at the back. “Humnein maha gathbandhan ka nirman kiya hai. SP, BSP, Peace Party, NISHAD, sab ek sath agaye to defeat those who only make announcements. It is not the end. It is a beginning,” Praveen told The Indian Express, as the father and son prepared to leave for Lucknow to thank SP chief Akhilesh Yadav for the SP symbol.
Former BSP minister Ram Kumar Nishad was still with him. “It is the start. There are still many issues to be raised but at present it is time to celebrate,” he said, before leaving.