Updated: September 12, 2014 10:41:50 am
Yogi Adityanath was a 22-year-old science graduate when he took deekhsha from his guru, BJP MP Mahant Avaidyanath, in February 1994 and was declared his successor in Gorakhnath Mandir. Few in Gorakhpur would have thought that the young man would one day reach a stature that would extend across the Poorvanchal region, where he is known as “Mahantji”. Today he has gone beyond that, too, and is in demand across Uttar Pradesh as the star campaigner for Saturday’s bypolls.
The campaign saw him promising to stop “love jihad” and defying denial of permission to hold a rally; he has been slapped an Election Commission notice and has had an FIR ordered against him.
The image of an aggressive pro-Hindutva leader came about shortly after the Gorakhpur mandir ceremony. In 1995, at Muslim-majority Bayalisgawan village some 25 km from Gorakhpur city, some Muslims allegedly robbed a Hindu man in broad daylight. Yogi reached the market with his supporters and it is said that police took action against the accused only after his intervention.
He has won five Lok Sabha elections from Gorakhpur, sometimes without the support of the BJP — he has set up a parallel power centre, Hindu Yuva Vahini. In the 2012 assembly elections, he fielded his own candidates against the BJP’s. The patch-up happened following a poor performance by the BJP in those polls.
By the time the 2014 general elections came, the party had acknowledged Yogi as the man to go to in eastern UP. He was the only BJP candidate from UP besides Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh to campaign for anyone other than himself. The BJP provided him a helicopter to travel to several Muslim-dominated districts. “Yogi’s pro-Hindtuva speeches led to polarisation and added votes for the BJP in various seats,” said a BJP leader.
This led to demands for the campaigner in the current elections, and the extension of his domain. The party has appointed him in a panel of three leaders and given him charge of leading the campaign in the state. Almost every BJP candidate told The Indian Express they wanted Yogi to campaign because his address would unite the Hindu vote.
Of the 11 assembly seats voting, Thakurdwara and Saharanpur were already communally charged because of recent clashes. Yogi started his campaign from Noida and Bijnor. Raising an issue many BJP leaders have been silent on, he said in Hamirpur that conversion of Hindu girls by duping them could be stopped only by a BJP government. He recalled an incident from 2013 when the UP police stopped him from going to Jhansi for a jalabhishek programme at a Shiv temple in a Muslim-dominated area. “That temple will be freed soon and I will go on the jalabhishek,” he said.
In Noida last week, his comments earned him the EC notice. He wound up his campaign at a Muslim-dominated area in Lucknow East, the meeting that hadn’t got permission. “The Lucknow meeting was scheduled at the end to allow Yogiji spread his pro-Hindutva message across the state from the state capital,” said a BJP leader.
As Yogi concluded his speech, focused against the state government’s alleged Muslim-appeasement policies, party workers chanted: “UP me rehna hai to Yogi, Yogi kehna hai.”
From an open truck, for Lalji son and Thakur votes
Lucknow East is regarded as a safe seat for the BJP, which has won it six times since 1991, but the party has seen so much recent bickering that even local MP Rajnath Singh and his son Pankaj Singh have skipped he campaign. Yogi Adityanath’s controversial appearance gave a much-required boost to Gopalji Tandon, who until then was banking on his father Lalji’s image and the BJP’s Lok Sabha wave. In 2012, Gopalji had lost from Lucknow North.
On Wednesday, Yogi Adityanath defied the district administration and addressed a meeting from a mini-truck. He accused the Samajwadi Party government of communal bias and blamed it for “riots” in the state. “The presence of a leader during any campaign is inspirational and thus our leader decided to speak from an open mini-truck after being denied permission for the rally,” BJP spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak said.
Standing next to Yogi, BJP state president Laxmikant Bajpai challenged the district administration to arrest them. “By staging a drama in Lucknow, BJP wanted to create communal tension, which is why they were seeking arrest,” alleged Congress spokesperson Surendra Rajput.
Yogi’s presence in Lucknow East was significant also because of the constituency’s Thakur votes, which SP candidate Juhie Singh is banking on and which Congress MP Sanjay Sinh has campaigned for. Caste equations are fluid this time. With no strong Brahmin candidate in the fray, the Congress is hoping to tap that vote through the efforts of Brahmin campaigners Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Aradhana Mishra. The BSP has given indirect support to an independent Kurmi candidate, S P Singh.
The Congress, which has fielded Ramesh Srivastava, is looking at a Thakur-Muslim-Kayastha caste combination but so is the Samajwadi Party. Juhie Singh had contested the last assembly election against Kalraj Mishra, who is now a union minister.
To repay an ally, he talks development not jihad
Rohaniya is in Varanasi, Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, and should have been a cakewalk for its ally the Apna Dal, which commands local support and won the assembly seat last time. Sending Yogi Adityanath besides central and state ministers, MPs and MLAs, therefore, is being seen as a repayment to the Apna Dal for the partnership and the votes that contributed to Modi’s massive victory.
Rohaniya is one seat where Yogi skipped his pet theme of “love jihad”. There on Tuesday, he dwelt instead on good governance and development. Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patel, who has surrendered the assembly seat, noted Yogi made no controversial statement.
State BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai stressed Rohaniya’s importance: “Of course, it is Modij’s constituency. But we want to ensure that not the slightest doubt surfaces regarding our coalition dharma with our alliance partners.” He has urged MP Mahendra Nath Pandey and MLA Seema Dwivedi to carry out outreach programmes on the last day.
Regional president (Kashi Prant) Laxman Acharya, said: “Apna Dal workers and leaders had worked hard for Modiji’s victory. We are now returning their favour.”
Anupriya, however, said: “Why associate Modiji’s prestige with an assembly seat in a bypoll? He has already won the hearts of the crores of Indians. It anything, it is my prestige at stake. But, the BJP has been extremely positive,and our people are helping them in Sirathu assembly constituency.”
The Apna Dal candidate is Krishna Patel, its national president and Anupriya’s mother. Her rivals are Mahendra Singh Patel of the Samajwadi Party, Bhavna Patel of the Congress, independent Ramakant Singh a.k.a. Mintu Singh supported by the BSP, and Qaumi Ekta Dal’s Shivaji Patel.
‘Hate speech’ for which EC wants FIR
Noida, September 11
It was the speech Yogi Aditynath gave here on September 7 that led to the Election Commission ordering an FIR against him. He called for “Ram rajya” and accused the state government of bias towards Muslims, saying a loudspeaker was removed from a temple in Moradabad while these are allowed in mosques.
The rally was the highlight of the BJP’s campaign for Vimla Batham, long associated with Noida Entrepreneurs’ Association. The SP candidate is Kajal Sharma, while the Congress has fielded Rajinder Awana, who complains that many voters don’t even know bypolls are happening. “Indifference is quite high. It’s in the villages that people are most enthusiastic,” he said. “I am telling them it was the Congress that first put Noida on the growth path.”
Batham is focusing on law and order, electricity and water quality. “Talk about getting Ganga water has been on for years. Where is the Ganga water? Noida is supposed to be a no-power cut zone. But everybody knows it is a big joke. And people hardly feel safe here, especially women,” she said.
Brahmins form the largest group while there also are Vaishyas, Gurjjars, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs and Thakurs. The Congress candidate is Gujjar, the BJP candidate is from the Vaishya community while that of the SP is a Brahmin.
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