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BJP sources list 5 reasons for fielding Yogi from Gorakhpur

Before Yogi Adityanath's constituency was decided, there were rumours the BJP would field him from Rama’s birthplace Ayodhya or Krishna’s birthplace Mathura

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Laying all speculations to rest about Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s likelihood of contesting the upcoming assembly election from the holy cities of or Mathura, the BJP had on 15 January declared his candidature from Gorakhpur. As expected from the opposition, they claimed the ruling party was not confident that their chief minister was popular everywhere in the state. Samajwadi Party leaders attributed different reasons for the decision of the BJP.

SP president Akhilesh Yadav took a dig at the BJP’s decision to field Yogi from the latter’s bastion of Gorakhpur. In a tweet in Hindi, he said: “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.

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

Another SP spokesperson IP Singh, while speaking to PTI, 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.”

Now sources in the BJP have told the press five reasons for the party’s choice.

Before the name of Yogi’ was announced, there was a buzz that the BJP would field him either from Rama’s birthplace (SriRam Janmabhoomi) or Krishna’s birthplace (SriKrishna Janmabhoomi) Mathura. These were merely in the realm of speculation, as there was no official word from the BJP or any party leader to that effect, sources in the party told reporters.

Yogi welcomed the decision by thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president JP Nadda and congratulated all the 106 other party candidates whose names were announced by Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is the BJP leader in charge of the party’s Uttar Pradesh assembly election management.

BJP must make up for defection by leaders

Sources in the BJP explained that Gorakhpur lay in eastern Uttar Pradesh from where three cabinet ministers — Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan and Dharam Singh Saini — in the Yogi government and seven BJP MLAs quit the party. Of these three ministers, two are from eastern Uttar Pradesh. Maurya had won the 2017 assembly election from Padrauna, the district headquarters of Kushinagar. Similarly, Chauhan had won the last state election from Madhuban, which lies in District Mau of the state.

The duo is considered influential in the milieu of OBCs. They may inflict damage to the BJP in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The BJP believes that with Yogi as a candidate from Gorakhpur, this damage could be minimised, the sources said.

When Prime Minister Modi had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Varanasi, it helped consolidate the BJP’s position not just in eastern Uttar Pradesh, as Varanasi lies in the region, but also the adjoining western Bihar.

With Modi in Varanasi and Yogi in Gorakhpur, the BJP hopes to garner a majority of the votes in eastern Uttar Pradesh that accounts for 160 of the total 403 assembly seats. This comes close to 40% of the total seats in the state.

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

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’s candidature.

Gorakhpur a bastion

By contesting from his ‘fortress’ of Gorakhpur, Yogi will have more time at his disposal to pay attention to other regions of Uttar Pradesh. He would also have to worry less about winning from his stronghold and strategise more for the remaining part of the state. Before assuming power in the state, Yogi was a five-term Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur, having registered consecutive victories in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014 general elections. Moreover, he is the head of the highly popular Gorakhnath Mutt. Yogi is a revered figure in the region.

Yogi’s popularity could be gauged from the fact that the BJP fielded Shiv Pratap Shukla from Gorakhpur seat in the 2002 UP assembly election against Yogi’s wish. The yogi rebelled against his party and backed Radha Mohan Das Agarwal, who was contesting on a Hindu Mahasabha ticket.

The BJP lost the seat and Agarwal was victorious on the seat prestigious for Yogi. Agarwal subsequently went on to win in all three following assembly elections in 2007, 2012 and 2017.

Since 1989, the BJP has lost Gorakhpur just once in 2002.

Why not Mathura or Ayodhya?

Contrary to Gorakhpur, where the affair has so far been smooth, Yogi’s candidature either in Mathura or could have created complications for the BJP. The chief minister could have, a source said, found it difficult to contest from Mathura. The pilgrim city 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 the energy ministry. Further, Sharma has been praised by senior leaders, including Yogi, in public rallies for “improving” the electricity situation in the state.

Not the right caste here

Yet another reason, Sharma is a Brahmin while Yogi is a Thakur. Brahmins are said to be cross with the chief minister and the BJP for being favoured less than Thakurs. The BJP is trying hard to smoothen the ruffled feathers of the Brahmins. Replacing Sharma with Yogi would have antagonised the Brahmins who constitute more than 10% of the state’s population. This Brahmin-Thakur equation with the BJP was responsible for Yogi not being fielded in Ayodhya.

SP leader and spokesperson Tej Narayan Pandey alias Pawan Pandey is likely to be the SP candidate from Ayodhya. He had won the seat in 2012 and was the state forest minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government.

However, he was defeated by Ved Prakash Gupta of the BJP by a margin of over 50,000 votes in the 2017 assembly election.

Had Yogi been fielded from Ayodhya, the contest would have become one between Thakurs and Brahmins. The tremors could have been felt in other parts of the state, adversely affecting the BJP’s prospects.

Not to displease Yogi’s constituency

With Yogi being popular as a politician and a revered person as the head of the Gorakhnath Mutt in Gorakhpur, his flight to any other constituency would have been taken as short shrift by his supporters.

Yogi is contesting an assembly election for the first time. After becoming the CM in March 2017, he got elected as an MLC.

After having contested and won five Lok Sabha elections, he has maintained his relationship with his constituency in the upcoming assembly election also.

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