After witnessing first-hand the effects of the SP-BSP alliance on his home turf in the bypolls last year, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is leaving little to chance in the Gorakhpur constituency, which goes to polls in the seventh and last phase on May 19.
Despite his busy campaign schedule across the country, Adityanath has camped in Gorakhpur, a seat he has won every time since 1998, for the last week — since campaigning ended for Phase 6 on May 10 — in a bid to get the social, religious and caste equations right. The BJP’s pick for Gorakhpur this time is actor-turned-politician Ravi Kishan Shukla.
Since the BJP suffered defeats at the hands of the gathbandhan in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls last year, the party has faced an uphill battle in a region where politics revolves around Thakurs and Brahmins.
Sources said that Adityanath has put to task his own organisation — the Hindu Yuva Vahini — which has remained dormant since he became CM in 2017. However, Shukla’s nomination has irked many and former Yuva Vahini chief Sunil Singh is campaigning for gathbandhan candidate Ram Bhuval Nishad.
And while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not campaigned here, Adityanath is pulling out all the stops: since May 10, he has addressed Sikh, intellectuals, trader, social and booth worker sammelans in all five assembly segments, state and Union ministers have campaigned in Gorakhpur and Adityanath, who has tried to either begin or end his schedule in Gorakhpur daily, has ensured at least one public meeting every day.
And as campaigning ended for the Lok Sabha polls Friday, Adityanath addressed his last rally in the Shahjanwa area of Gorakhpur.
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Consider Adityanath’s campaign schedule over the last week:
* May 10: He addressed three meetings in this constituency— Pipraich, Campirganj and Gorakhpur city. Before that, he addressed public meetings in Santkabir Nagar, Domariyaganj and Motihari in Bihar but ended his day with rallies in Gorakhpur.
* May 11: Adityanath began with a rally in the Belwar area of Gorakhpur and then travelled to Salempur, Ballia and Mirzapur constituencies through the day.
* May 12: After addressing a rally in the Ghosi constituency, he returned to Gorakhpur for a public meeting in Ghagsara. Later, he participated in a “samajik sammelan” in Jata Shanker followed by a Vyapari Sammelan at Civil Lines.
* May 13: He started with a rally in Jeetpur market in Gorakhpur before travelling to the Maharajganj and Deoria constituencies. He ended the day with a rally in Gorakhpur’s Sehjanwa area.
* May 14: After accompanying the Prime Minister to a rally in Ballia, Adityanath attended programmes in the Bansgaon and Kushinagar constituencies but ended the day with two separate meetings in Gorakhpur — Satuabhar Kasba and another at Dohriya market in Campirganj.
* May 16: Started the day in the Pipraich area of Gorakhpur followed by BJP chief Amit Shah’s roadshow.
* May 15: Adityanath was in West Bengal.
* May 17: Union Minister Smriti Irani held a bike rally. Adityanath ended the campaign at the Shahjanwa area of Gorakhpur.
Incidentally, the gathbandhan wrested Gorakhpur from the BJP only after Adityanath vacated the seat to take charge of UP’s top job. Then, against the BJP’s Upendra Dutt Shukla, the SP fielded Praveen Nishad, with support from BSP, who won by a margin of about 21,000 votes.
Speaking to The Indian Express, P K Mall, general secretary of the Hindu Yuva Vahini said, “This election cannot be compared with the bypolls as voters had not taken it seriously and even the polling percentage was quite low. However, there has been more awareness this time and everyone has given time.”
State Rural Development Minister Mahendra Singh said, “Lots of things have changed since the bypolls. A lot of work has been undertaken since then. It should not been seen as he was camping in Gorakhpur because during the west UP campaign, he made Delhi his base and for central UP he made Lucknow the base. For east UP, he made Gorakhpur the base and travelled to not in UP but also Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal from here. He also stayed in Varanasi for two days.”