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UP assembly polls: Why BJP fielded Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur and not from Ayodhya

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Putting all speculations to rest, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on January 15 declared Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s candidature for the upcoming assembly election not from the holy cities of Ayodhya or Mathura but from Gorakhpur.

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Before Yogi Adityanath’s name was announced, rumours were rife that the BJP would field him either from Shri Ram Janmabhoomi, Ayodhya or Lord Krishna’s birthplace, Mathura, however the party gave him Gorakhpur ticket.

Where the decision was welcomed by Yogi Adityanath, who thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party president JP Nadda, and congratulated all the 106 other party candidates whose names were announced by Union education minister and leader in-charge of UP assembly election, Dharmendra Pradhan, the announcement met with sharp reactions from rivals like Samajwadi Party (SP). Where SP leaders attributed different reasons for Yogi’s Gorakhpur ticket, former CM Akhilesh Yadav mocked BJP’s move in a tweet. He wrote in Hindi, “Sometimes they said Mathura and sometimes they said Ayodhya. Now they are saying Gorakhpur. His party (BJP) only has sent him back to his home. In fact, he has not got a ticket but his return ticket has been cancelled.”

Meanwhile, SP spokesperson Fakhrul Hasan Chaand gave another reason for Yogi Adityanath’s candidature from Gorakhpur. In a Koo post in Hindi, he said: “The BJP has sent Yogi back to Gorakhpur due to the negative mood of the people of Ayodhya against him. The fear of defeat prevailed.”

Whereas, another SP spokesperson IP Singh, during a media interaction said: “The claim of our national president (Akhilesh Yadav) will be 100 per cent true as our party defeated BJP from Gorakhpur in the 2018 Lok Sabha byelection. As sitting BJP MLA Radha Mohan Das Agarwal was denied ticket from Gorakhpur Sadar (Urban) seat and due to politics of lies and hatred this time the BJP will be wiped out from the entire state.”

On the other hand, sources in the BJP cited other reasons for fielding Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur.

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It is to be mentioned that Gorakhpur lies in eastern UP. Last week, three cabinet ministers – Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan and Dharam Singh Saini – in the Yogi cabinet and seven BJP MLAs quit the party ahead of crucial state assembly polls. Of these three ministers, two are from eastern UP.

In 2017, Maurya had won the assembly election from Padrauna, the district headquarters of Kushinagar. Similarly, Chauhan had won the last state election from Madhuban in Mau district.

Maurya and Padrauna are considered to be one of the influential leaders of the OBCs in the eastern UP and can inflict damage to the BJP in the coming polls.

The BJP is of the view that with Yogi battling from Gorakhpur, this damage could be minimised, the sources said.

Notably, eastern UP accounts for 160 of the total 403 assembly seats. This comes close to 40 per cent of the total seats in the state.

Of these 160 seats, the BJP had won 115 in the 2017 assembly election, while SP grabbed 17 seats, BSP came victorious on 14, whereas the Congress won two and other parties and independents won 12 seats.

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Moreover, the BJP is aiming to galvanise support in Gorakhpur’s neighbouring districts of Basti, Siddharthnagar, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Balrampur, Sant Kabir Nagar and Deoria due to Yogi Adityanath’s presence there.

By contesting from his home turf, Yogi Adityanath would have more time at his disposal to pay attention to other regions of UP. He would also have to worry less about winning from his stronghold and strategise more for the remaining part of the state.

BJP’s popularity in the area could be gauged from the fact that since 1989, the saffron party has lost Gorakhpur just once in 2002.

Why not Mathura or Ayodhya

While Gorakhpur is considered as Yogi’s stronghold, his candidature either in Mathura or Ayodhya could have created complications for the BJP as the pilgrim city, Mathura, is represented in the assembly by energy minister Shrikant Sharma, who is considered close to the top leadership in the party.

Sharma was the media in-charge of the BJP’s national headquarters in Delhi till he was handed over an assembly ticket in 2017. Despite being a first-time MLA, he was allotted the important portfolio of energy ministry.

Known for his work and “improving” the electricity situation in the state, Sharma has gather so much praise by several senior leaders, including Yogi Adityanath himself, in public rallies.

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Another reason that make Sharma the best candidate from Mathura is his caste. While Yogi Adityanath is a Thakur, Sharma is a Brahmin. The Brahmins in the area are said to be upset with Adityanath and his party for being ignored at the cost of the Thakurs. While, the BJP is trying hard to woo the Brahmins, replacing Sharma with Adityanath can cut Brahmin votes, who constitute more than 10 per cent of the state’s population.

Due to this Brahmin-Thakur equation in the constituency, the BJP might have abstain itself from fielding Yogi Adityanath in Ayodhya.

Meanwhile, SP is all set to give a big blow to BJP in Ayodhya with its popular leader and spokesperson Tej Narayan Pandey alias Pawan Pandey, who had won the seat in 2012 and was the state forest minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government.

However, Ved Prakash Gupta did suffered defeat at the hands of BJP in the 2017 assembly election by a margin of over 50,000 votes.

Yogi Adityanath’s popularity as a politician and as the head of the Gorakhnath Mutt in Gorakhpur, will surely help him get huge support in his political career’s first assembly election. After becoming the CM in March 2017, he got elected as an MLC (member of legislative council).

So far, Yogi has contested and won five Lok Sabha elections, and has maintained his relationship with his constituency in the upcoming assembly election also.

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