Updated: January 25, 2022 7:36:21 am
With Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath set to contest his debut Assembly election, from Gorakhpur Urban, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a youth outfit he founded in 2002, is going all out to campaign for him.
Gorakhpur goes to the polls only in the sixth phase of the elections, on March 3, but Vahini workers have already started campaigning on the seat, both physically and virtually. Vahini functionaries have been holding daily meetings to chalk out their campaign strategy and reviewing the progress.
Vahini’s Gorakhpur convener Rishi Mohan Verma told The Indian Express, “Since our patron maharaj ji (Yogi Adityanath) is contesting the election, our responsibility has increased. Our entire focus is on the social media campaign. Our IT teams have been working to popularise the work done by the state government.”
On whether they have been coordinating with the BJP, Verma said, “We (Vahini and BJP) are holding meetings separately but with a common goal of ensuring Yogi ji’s win. We are working to increase the voter turnout in the election.”
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Adityanath had founded the Vahini in 2002 as an organisation to work for Hindu culture and cow protection, and against untouchability. While the Vahini and its activities were confined to Gorakhpur and adjoining districts such as Kushinagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Maharajganj, Mau, Balrampur and Shravasti, after the 2017 elections, with Adityanath, then MP from Gorakhpur, catapulted into the CM chair, the organisation saw a surge in membership — and muscle.
The outfit’s association with Adityanath meant that its members allowed themselves a free run as they turned vigilantes, barging into homes on suspicion of love jihad, pouncing on unsuspecting couples and waylaying alleged cattle smugglers. It finally took a rap on the knuckles by CM Adityanath for the Vahini to pipe down. In May 2017, Adityanath reportedly told Vahini workers to maintain decency of behaviour and to avoid controversies. Ever since, it has maintained a low profile, only to emerge now.
Verma, the Vahini’s Gorakhpur convener, denied that the outfit had been maintaining a low profile over the last few years. “We have always been active, but the difference is that before 2017, we were in opposition and hence we staged dharna and protests against the state government. But over the last five years, we have been working to popularise the government’s welfare schemes and to help people benefit from them,” he said.
On the elections, Vahini state general secretary P K Mall said, “We are working in coordination with the BJP. Work has been distributed. Under maharaj ji’s leadership, we are active in every Assembly segment. We are working not only for him, but for the BJP as well.”
BJP Gorakhpur Mahanagar spokesperson Brajsh Mishra said, “Vahini workers are already attending BJP’s meetings at the ward and mandal levels.”
Mishra said the BJP has already started campaigning by distributing pamphlets of government policies and schemes and creating booth-level WhatsApp groups, with members of at least 50 families in each group.
A BJP leader in Gorakhpur said, “The election in Gorakhpur Urban has become interesting after Azad Samaj Party (Kanshiram) chief Chandra Shekhar Azad announced that he would contest from here. This seat has around 45,000 SCs/STs voters and most of them have received help from the Gorakshpeeth in the past. But the seat has around 45,000 Muslims. And Azad is a big name. We can’t take any chance.”
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