There is an unusual quiet at the Gorakhnath Mutt. It’s two days since the Gorakhpur bypoll loss, marking the first political defeat of its head Yogi Adityanath, and any plans to mark the first anniversary of his government, falling on Monday, have been swept aside.
At the same time, the powerful peeth, which between Yogi and his guru Avaidyanath has controlled the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat since 1989, has distanced itself from the loss. With no one from the peeth contesting this time, its officials insist they had little to do with the election. Not even an election office was set up at the temple, they add.
There is also barely cloaked satisfaction that the BJP had been taught a crucial “lesson” ahead of the general election. Dwarika Tiwari, who mans the desk at the temple office, says Adityanath gave his all for the bypolls (the Chief Minister addressed 16 rallies). “Baba (Adityanath) did his best, but aastha ka vote nahin mila (people didn’t vote for faith) as public thought that Baba was not contesting.”
Blaming the BJP, he adds, “Sangathan ka dosh hai, ground pe to jaana chaahiye tha (It is the fault of the organisation. Workers should have at least gone to the ground).”
Another staff member adds that people were angry at the “highhandedness of officials”. “Baba akele kya, kya karen (What all could Adityanath alone do)?”
It’s a sentiment repeated across the five Assembly segments of Gorakhpur — of a “poojniya (revered)”, “heera (diamond-like)” Adityanath, and of his problem-ridden “sarkar”. Those “problems” range from the GST and loan waiver, to stray animals, Dalit insecurity and unmet promises.
Sitting at a tea shop on the Balapor road in the Gorakhpur Urban Assembly segment, Mohd Taufeeq points to the road outside that leads up to the Gorakhnath temple. This Assembly segment is the only one in the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat where BJP candidate Upendra Shukla left the Samajwadi Party’s winning nominee Praveen Nishad far behind — by 2,27,557 votes. While Shukla won another Assembly segment, Pipraich, the margin there was just 243 votes.
Taufeeq, a businessman, has no doubt why the BJP lost out. “The public is no fool,” he says. “Right from the corporator to the MLA (here) to the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister, all are theirs (the BJP’s), but even the road leading to the temple and the medical college nearby has not been repaired in a year.”
Dileep Giri, standing next to him, butts in, “It is not that no work is being done… An AIIMS is being built, a fertiliser plant is coming up, but the point is that the public has not felt the change of power here.”
The anger is more in the rural Assembly segments, where the BJP’s performance was poorer. In Ambedkarnagar Dalit basti at Peepiganj in Campierganj segment, people talk of Ambedkar statues “being vandalised across the state”, including in nearby Lohia Nagar.
They also complain of upper castes flexing their muscles since Adityanath, a Thakur, took over. Others say police stations have been filled with Thakur officers. “We don’t get respect. We are treated badly at police stations,” says Sudhir Kumar, a labourer.
Virender Singh, who owns a confectionary shop in the basti, reasons, “Badlaav aaya hai to kuchch to kaaran hoga hi. Aastha apni jagah hai (If there is a vote for change, there must be a reason. Faith is a different matter).”
Peepiganj Police Station SHO Devendra Kumar Singh denies the allegations. “These are all false. Someone circulated wrong information about defacing of an Ambedkar statue and was arrested,” he says.
The SP’s winning margin in Campierganj was 14,130 votes.
At the Bharaojan gram sabha, near the English-medium school run by the Gorakhnath Peeth trust, tempo driver Rajesh Kumar Mishra says he is a BJP worker, and knows many like him who are angry. “Karyakarta ki hi nahin suni jaa rahi (The BJP is not listening to its own workers).”
Pradhan Gopi Nath, who wears safron clothes like Adityanath and says he is close to the CM, adds, “The local MLAs did not come out to campaign. For most, campaigning was limited to posts on Facebook. The public is upset as social security schemes including pension have been stopped.”
He is referring to the SP’s Samajwadi Pension Scheme and Mayawati’s Uttar Pradesh Mukhyamantri Mahamaya Garib Arthik Madad Yojna. The Samajwadi Pension Scheme has not been stopped but rechristened as Mukhyamantri Pension Scheme for the poor, women and differently abled. As many beneficiaries have been removed after enquiry, people believe it has been stopped.
Brij Mohan, who claims to be booth vice-president of the BJP, says they don’t know who to turn to with their grievances. “It is not easy to meet him (Adityanath) now.”
He also attributes the BJP’s loss to its neglect of the Dalit vote, at a time when the SP and BSP came together. “Baba Dalit-varga ka khyal rakhen (Baba should take care of Dalits).”
In the Sehjanwa Assembly segment, villagers say resentment has been brewing over “chhutta pashu (stray animals)” — a matter that has become serious enough to figure several times in the Assembly. Says Phoolchand Saini, “The animals have caused huge losses.” Adds another farmer in his 50s, “There is no sale and purchase of the male cow, which is being abandoned by farmers. In peak winter, we had to sit in the open to protect fields.”
The BJP got 16,000-odd votes less than the SP’s Nishad in Sehjanwa.
As the farmers talk, the latent anger over notebandi also spills out. Saini talks about standing in lengthy queues.
The rising rate of sand, from Rs 2,200 to Rs 6,000 a trolley, has hit construction work, add villagers. “We cannot build homes, animals are eating all our crops, the farm loan waiver has not benefited us. It is getting frustrating,” says Saini. The state loan waiver scheme was announced last year, with loans up to Rs 1 lakh waived off. Farmers here claim none of them has benefited from it.
At Nusard market in the Gorakhpur rural segment, Radha Krishna Singh, a fellow Thakur as Yogi, says, “Public wanted change and saw an opportunity.” The BJP loss margin here too was around the 16,000 mark.
In the Pipraich Assembly segment, people believe the “saanp-chachundar (snake-mole)” remark of Adityanath while describing the SP-BSP tie-up hurt the BJP. At the same time, there is a belief that the upper castes didn’t turn up in enough numbers to vote, and hence this victory should not be seen as a long-term change. “The BJP alone got over four lakh votes against the votes of all the parties put together,” says Rama Kant Singh, of the OBC Saithwar caste that is dominant in the region.
The BJP won Pipraich seat by a narrow margin of 243 votes.
Shakir Ali of Pipraich says the GST too was a factor. “Many boys have come back home from factories. What do we do?”
But there is one issue on which everyone across Gorakhpur is united. It is that “electricity supply is the best in years”. The government claims to be providing 18 hours of electricity supply in rural areas at present.
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