He was Mayawati’s Man Friday and is now the BJP’s prize catch. But the BJP’s efforts at securing victory for Swami Prasad Maurya have come up against a challenge — a Hindutva pitch in this constituency in the heart of eastern Uttar Pradesh. A divide in the Sangh Parivar is posing a hurdle to the BJP and Maurya. Maurya’s alleged remarks about Hindu gods and goddesses have returned to haunt him. Doing the rounds in Maurya’s Padrauna constituency in Kushi Nagar district is a pamphlet, issued in the name of the Hindu Jagran Manch, which accuses Maurya of having once said that Brahmins are believers of “Manuwadi ideology” and that there is no place for human beings in the Hindu religion. The Congress-SP alliance is happily, if surreptitiously, amplifying the anti-Hindu charge against Maurya.
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A small faction of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, which is contesting in a dozen-odd seats in and around Gorakhpur where its chief patron Yogi Adityanath wields influence, is working to upset the BJP’s applecart in the region. Adityanath has already sacked Yuva Vahini state president Sunil Singh. Also queering the pitch for Maurya are some rebels, including six-time Padrauna MP Ram Nagina Mishra’s son Purushuram Mishra.
The Hindu Jagran Manch’s Gorakhpur pranth sanyojak Raja Tripathi admits that the source of the pamphlet is some disgruntled elements in the manch. “We have already lodged an FIR against some people for defaming our organisation,” he tells The Indian Express. Manch sources say that their district in-charge, RSS functionary Sanjay Jaiswal, had wanted to contest from Padrauna but was denied the ticket when Maurya joined the BJP.
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“An individual who is against Jaiswal and against our district president Ashuthosh Rishi Shrivastav is circulating the pamphlet so that Maurya gets upset and raises questions, and the manch takes action against them… It is being done by a group to defame Rishi and Jaiswal,” Tripathi says. It is a measure of the damage caused by the pamphlet that the manch has lodged an FIR and issued an denial.
The BJP has rushed a number of top leaders to contain the damage. Party president Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh have visited Padrauna. Sunil Singh, the sacked Yuva Vahini state head, tells The Indian Express that Maurya did make disparaging remarks about the Hindu religion in the past and those remarks are certainly a poll issue. “The BJP is being forced to explain Maurya’s past remarks,” he says.
The Yuva Vahini has fielded 14 candidates across UP and is supporting six others. Their campaign theme is “Hindutva and vikas”. The Congress is being seen as a serious contender in Padruana. It is the home of R P N Singh, former Kushi Nagar MP and thrice the MLA from here. In the last Lok Sabha election, when the BJP swept eastern UP, Singh too lost but managed a lead in Padrauna segment.
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The Congress’s assembly candidate, Shiv Kumari Devi, belongs to the Vaishya community, which has a sizeable presence in Padrauna alongside Muslims and Yadavs. What could work against the Congress is the Muslim vote going the way of the BSP’s Javed Iqbal. On the other hand, the Congress is hoping that Hindu-Muslim polarisation will work in its favour; it believes Muslim voters would then prefer the Congress-SP candidate as the main challenger to the BJP.
Mayawati, keen to defeat Maurya, has campaigned extensively in Padrauna. Maurya is banking on the 15.000-20,000-odd votes of his community, Kushwaha, besides the BJP vote base of upper caste Hindus.