Updated: January 13, 2022 8:41:09 pm
As a series of defections by sitting MLAs rattles the BJP, the party is considering fielding Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who announced earlier that he would contest the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, from Ayodhya. The move is being seen in the party as one that would amplify the Hindutva message and galvanise the cadre. More so when the Ram temple project is well under way.
Sources said this proposal was discussed at the high-level meeting held at the BJP headquarters in the national capital on Tuesday, attended among others by Adityanath, UP Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, party state chief Swatantra Dev Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah.
“The CM contesting from Ayodhya would help the party highlight the narrative it has been emphasising on,” a source in the BJP said, adding that many in the party feel this would be the “ultimate” message to the party’s supporters.
The party’s calculation is that a campaign with religious undertones, headlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, focusing on welfare schemes of the Centre and Adityanath’s record of being “tough” on law and order would give the party the momentum it needs. Sources said the BJP’s internal assessment was that it would win at least 270 seats, and go up to 290 if the message hits home, in the 403-member House. The BJP had won 325 seats in 2017.
A final decision on Adityanath’s constituency would be taken by the top leadership. The BJP’s Central Election Committee, which includes Modi and party chief J P Nadda, apart from Shah and national general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh as key members, is expected to meet soon. Santhosh was also present at Tuesday’s meeting.
While several seats were earlier talked about as possible options for Adityanath, including Mathura, a constituency in the CM’s bastion of Gorakhpur or one in western UP where the BJP is facing the toughest battle, he is said to be keen on Ayodhya. An MP when he was named CM, Adityanath had got elected to the House via the Legislative Council.
The BJP’s campaign pitch has been getting shriller on the Hindutva issue as elections draw near. From Modi to Shah and Adityanath, the Ram temple in Ayodhya, among other issues, has been a constant refrain in speeches. The CM’s recent remarks framing the elections as a fight between “80 and 20%” reinforce this.
With the BJP’s main rival, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, trying to expand the party’s base among non-Yadav OBCs, BJP strategists see “a larger Hindu consolidation” as one guarantee of return to power, and Adityanath from Ayodhya would help in that.
If the proposal is cleared, it would be the first time Adityanath will contest an Assembly election. It will also mark his first election outside Gorakhpur. The head priest of the Gorakhnath Math since 2014, he has represented the Gorakhpur constituency in the Lok Sabha five times.
The Ayodhya Assembly constituency has been with the BJP almost constantly since 1991, with Lallu Singh (currently the MP from Faizabad) winning it till 2012. That year, the SP won the seat, though the BJP’s Ved Prakash Gupta wrested it back in 2017.
Apart from this being Adityanath’s first Assembly contest, it would also be the first time a sitting CM would contest Assembly polls in UP since Rajnath Singh did so in 2002.
SP chief Akhilesh has said he won’t contest. On Monday, the BSP announced that its supremo Mayawati was also not in the poll race.
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