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Yogi on the move where Muslims count
Amid opposition allegations about the BJP’s efforts to polarise voters along communal lines, party MP Yogi Adityanath is campaigning in constituencies where Muslims will play a key role in the elections.
Party leaders say Yogi, four times the Gorakhpur MP, has been avoiding any direct reference to Hindtuva issues in his public meetings, but that is only to avoid attracting the attention of the Election Commission. His presence in these constituencies, which vote in the May 7 and 12 phases, in itself is seen as enough to consolidate Hindu voters towards the BJP with Muslims in any case mobilised against Narendra Modi.
The BJP has provided Yogi with a helicopter to campaign outside Gorakhpur. He is talking mostly of development issues according to an agenda reportedly set by Modi.
Yogi has so far addressed public meetings in Basti, Gorakhpur, Domariyaganj, Maharajganj, Sant Kabir Nagar and Kushinagar, at some places more than once. In Sant Kabir Nagar, he could not reach the rally ground due to a last-minute change in his schedule and addressed the audience from his mobile phone. There are nearly 3.5 lakh Muslim voters in Sant Kabir Nagar.
Yogi was also scheduled to campaign in Muslim-dominated Gonda, Bahraich, Shrawasti and Ambedkarnagar, but his helicopter could not fly to those sites due to bad weather.
One of Yogi’s recent public meetings was in Domariyaganj in support of BJP candidate Jagdambika Pal. BJP leaders note there are nearly 4.5 lakh Muslim voters there with three Muslim candidates to chose from. BSP candidate Mohammad Muqeem is giving a tough contest to Pal while Peace Party president Mohammad Ayub and the NCP’s Hamidullah Chaudhary, too, are claiming some support.
“Yogiji did not speak about Hindutva here, but focused on development and corruption. His presence itself is enough to spread a message of Hindutva among voters and that will help polarisation,” said a party leader in Domariyaganj.
“Yogiji avoided mentioning the Hindutva agenda but his pro-Hindutva image is leading to polarisation,” echoes a BJP leader in Kushinagar, where again three Muslim candidates are vying for the 30 per cent Muslim vote against the BJP’s Rajesh Pandey.
Yogi will address meetings in Azamgarh, Ballia and Ghosi (Mau), all with sizeable Muslim populations. Yogi travels Friday to Azamgarh, where Mulayam Singh Yadav is contesting and which Amit Shah has called a base of terrorists,
Ghosi is a sensitive constituency with don Mukhtar Ansari contesting for the Quami Ekta Dal. Modi too will address a rally here Thursday, with Yogi’s presence expected to send a message. In Ballia, where Mukhtar’s brother Afzal Ansari is contesting, Modi and Yogi will address a public meeting this week.