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In UP poll race, a burning question: Will Yogi contest, and from where?

Seats being talked about are Mathura, Ayodhya, Gorakhpur, or a constituency in west UP.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Lucknow |
Updated: January 8, 2022 3:31:24 pm
Yogi Adityanath, UP elections, Yogi seat, Uttar Pradesh, UP poll race, UP BJP, BSP, SP, UP news, Indian expressAdityanath had earlier announced that he would contest the Assembly elections, a first for him. (File)

Amidst the buzz surrounding the Uttar Pradesh elections, one is growing louder by the day: will Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath contest, and from which seat?

Adityanath had earlier announced that he would contest the Assembly elections, a first for him. The former five-time parliamentarian had entered the UP House via the Legislative Council after the 2017 results.

With Adityanath leaving little doubt that he expects to be the CM again should the BJP return to power, even if the party is trying to portray that the matter is not closed, an electoral victory will only consoldiate his position further. Besides giving him a boost within the party, it would also give him an advantage over rivals like the Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav and the BSP’s Mayawati who shied away from contesting themselves when trying for a second term in power.

An MP from Azamgarh, Akhilesh earlier announced that he wouldn’t contest but focus on strengthening the SP. However, on Monday, he indicated he had changed his mind, saying he would go by whatever the party decided.

With the BJP yet to start shortlisting candidates, names of many possible seats for Adityanath are doing the rounds, from ‘Krishna Janmabhoomi’ Mathura to ‘Ram Janmaboomi’ Ayodhya, to his own turf Gorakhpur to western UP where the BJP is facing a tough time due to the farmer protests. Adityanath’s term as an MLC ends on July 6 this year.

BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said the candidate list would be decided by the party central election committee and central parliamentary board.

BJP leaders agreed that Adityanath’s decision to contest could prove a masterstroke. Said a leader who did not want to be named: “If the CM contests, it would have a positive impact on the party, especially in the constituencies adjoining the seat from where he stands.”

The leader added that the choice of either Mathura or Ayodhya would also consolidate the Hindus behind the BJP, to check any rallying of anti-BJP votes against Adityanath.

Speculation about possible seats for Adityanath started recently when Rajya Sabha MP Harnath Singh Yadav wrote to BJP chief J P Nadda requesting him to consider fielding the CM from Mathura.

But a party leader hoped that Adityanath would be fielded from either western UP, where the farm protests were seen in the state and where a communal divide runs deep, or the backward Bundelkhand, instead of the safe seats of Gorakhpur, Ayodhya and Mathura. “A seat in Bundelkhand that has been deprived of development for decades would affirm the BJP’s focus on the region. It would be just like Varanasi, where the district and adjoining areas have seen development since the PM was elected from there,” the leader said. Similarly, fielding him from west UP districts like Muzaffaranagar, Shamli, Saharanpur or Aligarh could shift the narrative towards the BJP there, the leader added.

A BJP leader said that at this point, Adityanath should not change his mind regarding contesting. “The BJP is fighting the election with him as the face, and everyone from the party’s booth worker to Prime Minister Narendra Modi is praising the Adityanath government’s works. Now, if he does not contest, opposition parties may raise questions regarding the confidence of the BJP in his performance.”

Asked about Adityanath joining the poll race, and whether Mayawati might decide the same, BSP spokesperson Faizan Khan said: “The BSP is a national party and Behanji is its national president. She has a busy schedule across the country. Still, she was the party’s CM face in 2007, though neither Akhilesh was the SP’s CM face in 2012 nor Adityanath the BJP’s CM face in 2017.”

Akhilesh, in fact, has never contested an Assembly poll. In 2012, when the SP came to power and he became CM, he was the sitting Kannauj MP and got elected to the Legislative Council. He didn’t contest the 2017 Assembly elections either, and after the SP lost those, preferred to return to Parliament as the MP from Azamgarh.

An SP leader said a decision had not been taken on whether Akhilesh would contest or not. “The SP and its allies are contesting the election under his leadership, and Akhilesh needs to tour the state to campaign. If he gets confined to one seat, how will he give time to others?” the leader argued.

Rajnath Singh, currently the Union Defence Minister, was the last sitting UP CM to contest an Assembly election. In 2002, he was re-elected from Haidergarh constituency of Barabanki, though the BJP lost power.

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