After almost three decades, the BJP has fielded a candidate from outside the Gorakhnath temple for Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat. The party on Monday declared Upendra Shukla, its regional unit president, as its candidate for the bye-elections slated for March 11. The party also named state secretary Kaushlendra Singh Patel as the candidate from Phulpur seat. Congress and Samajwadi Party have already announced their candidates for both the seats.
Meanwhile, in Bihar’s Araria Lok Sabha seat, BJP has declared Pradeep Singh as its nominee and has fielded Rinki Pandey for Bhabua assembly bypoll in the state.
The bye-elections in UP has been necessitated by the resignation of CM Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya from Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats, respectively, in September last year following their election to UP Legislative Council.
Tuesday is the last day for filing the nominations. Counting of votes will take place on March 14.
Upendra Shukla, who is currently Gorakhpur’s region president of BJP, has served as the party’s district president in the past. For the last 29 years, Gorakhpur has been represented in Lok Sabha by the head priest of Gorakhnath temple, which is the most prominent Hindu pilgrimage centre in eastern UP.
Adityanath’s guru Mahant Avaidyanth was elected from Gorakhpur LS seat in 1989 as a Hindu Mahasabha nominee. He was elected for next two consecutive terms, 1991 and 1996, as a BJP nominee. Avaidyanath’s successor as head priest of the temple, Adityanath, won the seat as BJP’s candidate for five consecutive elections, defeating SP in 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2014, and BSP in 2009. Madan Pandey of Congress was the last non-BJP MP elected from Gorakhpur, in 1984.
BJP had so far been relying on the Gorakhnath temple for selection of a candidate for Gorakhpur LS seat, considering the temple’s follower base and the clout of its head priest.
BJP’s Phulpur nominee Kaushlendra Singh Patel, from OBC community, is party’s state secretary for the second consecutive term. He was elected as mayor from Varanasi in 2006, when the mayoral seat of the city was reserved for backward castes. Patel has earlier worked in RSS’s student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) as well. Sources said that Patel is close to deputy CM Maurya, who played a key role in getting the party’s Lok Sabha ticket for him.
The saffron party declared the names of the candidates after a meeting was held in this regard on Sunday evening in Delhi. Party national president Amit Shah, UP CM Adityanath and party state president Mahendra Nath Pandey attended the meet and discussed probable names for the bye-elections. Sources said that for Gorakhpur, the name of regional unit secretary Dharmendra Singh also came up. discussed. Singh is considered close to Adityanath, who had proposed Singh’s name for the mayor nominee as well in recent urban body elections, but the party had denied him ticket.