All political parties hold dear their icons. The list gets longer during polls as parties dust off history books to project long-forgotten heroes or revive prominent ones to woo votes from specific communities.
In the run-up to the UP polls, the state government unveiled a statue of the 9th-century ruler Mihir Bhoj and laid the foundation stone for a statue of 11th-century king Suheldev. While Gurjars claim Bhoj’s legacy, Rajbhars assert their affinity to Suheldev. Rajputs, meanwhile, trace their roots to both the kings. In addition, the state government laid the foundation stone for a university named after Jat King Mahendra Pratap Singh. Just before the poll notification, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that Azamgarh University will be named after Suheldev.
Over the last one month of the election campaign, Adityanath has invoked at least 70 such personalities —saints, local deities and freedom fighters — in his tweets, which he usually puts out before he goes out to campaign in a constituency associated with the person. Here are some of them:
Group Captain Varun Singh (Deoria): He was the only person to be rescued from the chopper crash that killed 13 passengers, including Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, in Tamil Nadu in December 2021. The Surya Chakra awardee succumbed to his injuries in a Bengaluru hospital.
Devraha Baba (Deoria): A seer who lived on a machan along the Saryu river, the baba counted former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri, former president Rajendra Prasad and the late Congress leader Arjun Singh among his followers. He famously used to bless his devotee with his foot. The Liberhan Commission, set up to investigate the Babri mosque demolition in 1992, named Baba as an accused. The seer died two years before the demolition.
K D Singh ‘Babu’ (Barabanki): Often compared to the legendary hockey player Dhyan Chand, the prolific hockey striker was part of India’s Olympic gold-winning teams in 1948 and 1952. He later coached the national team.
Malik Muhammad Jayasi (Amethi): The 16th century Sufi poet is best remembered for his epic poem Padmavat. Adityanath in his tweet described the poet as a devout disciple of the 11-century saint Gorakhnath. The CM is the chief priest of the Gorakhnath Math.
Nanaji Deshmukh (Gonda): A Bharat Ratna awardee, Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader’s organisational skills were instrumental in spreading RSS ideology in eastern Uttar Pradesh in the 1950s. Adityanath called him the “Rahstriya Rishi” (national saint).
Veera Pasi (Rae Bareli): Born in the district in 1935, he was a commander in the army of king Rana Beni Madho, who crossed swords with the British during the revolt of 1857. The Dalit warrior successfully executed a jailbreak plan for Madho.
Narpat Singh (Hardoi): Despite the fall of neighbouring territories to British soldiers in 1857, the zamindar of Hardoi remained defiant. He died in the Hardoi battlefield.
Uda Devi (Lucknow): The Dalit warrior asked Begum Hazrat Mahal to enlist her in the army to take on the British. In the battle of Sikandarbagh, she is said to have killed many soldiers while shooting from a vantage point atop a tree. She was later spotted and killed.
Ram Baksh Singh (Unnao): The Rajput king joined the 1857 mutiny with Nana Sahib. He was hanged for killing British soldiers during the uprising. A purported treasure trove hidden by the king in Unnao was the subject of much curiosity, with several claiming to have been his descendants. Nothing has been found by the Archeological Survey of India.
Rishi Markandeya (Mainpuri): In his tweet, Adityanath said that the district was the tapobhoomi (meditation place) of the sage, who wrote the ‘Markendya Purana’. Historians believe the Sanskrit text, devoted to Lord Shiva and Vishnu, was written circa 250 CE.
Thakur Roshan Singh (Shahjahanpur): At the age of 36, the freedom fighter and his friends Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan and Rajendra Lahiri were hanged by the colonial regime for his role in the Barauli dacoity in 1927. Historians are divided over whether Singh participated in the famous Kakori train heist near Lucknow in 1925.
Shivcharan Tyagi (Bijnore): Almost missing from history books, Tyagi, born in 1897, is said to have supplied foreign arms to freedom fighters, according to local reports.
Babaloo Singh (Mathura): The Army sepoy, despite being hit by bullets, killed an infiltrator at Nowgam in Jammu & Kashmir in 2016. He was conferred with the ‘Sena Medal’.