LUCKNOW: While the BJP has been served a bolt from blue catching the saffron ranks unawares in UP bypoll, the fall of Gorakhpur seems to be much beyond political comprehension as the voters chose to go with opposition against a BJP candidate who had no association with Gorakhnath Mutt for the first time during last three decades and more.
While the Samajwadi Party, supported by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), had struck a caste -- Backward-Dalit-Muslim (B-D-M) -- arithmetic of sorts in Gorakhpur parliamentary constituency, BJP refused to acknowledge the gravity of this tie-up and remained over confident of victory. Around 19.5 lakh electorate of Gorakhpur is dominated by biggest chunk of 8.5 lakh backwards. Among other castes, 3.5 lakh are Dalits, 3.5 lakh Muslims and remaining 4 lakh are upper castes. However, while looking for reason of saffron debacle, both arithmetic and chemistry led to the fall of Gorakhpur for the BJP.
In 2014, BJP had secured around 5.4 lakh votes (over 52 %) while the winning SP-BSP combine of this bypoll had polled only 4.02 lakh (38%) votes. If the same pattern had followed, BJP would have won by over 1 lakh votes comfortably whereas it lost by 22,000 votes which may be attributed to the SP-BSP chemistry. At the same time, low voters’ turn out, particularly in urban areas, emerged as the major blow to the ruling party.
The urban voters, predominantly BJP supporters, did not come out to vote. In Gorakhpur urban, only 37.76 per cent voting was witnessed, whereas it was around 50 per cent in rural and semi-urban assembly segments. The low turnout brought BJP’s votes down to 4.3 lakh . At the same time, the combined SP-BSP votes went up by almost 54,000 in constituency at a time when the total votes polled actually fell by over a lakh. In 2018, total polled votes were 9.34 lakh against 10.40 lakh polled in previous 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
While staying home could be an indication of some resentment, wrong choice of BJP candidate also led to reluctance among party voters. This is for the first time that the BJP candidate was not from Gorakhnath Mutt and the party lost it to SP. Pravin Nishad is the first Gorakhpur MP in 29 years not belonging to Mutt. In fact, the political narrative in Gorakhpur has been more of Mutt and Mahant –oriented than being around BJP as a force to reckon with.
The reverence to temple is so deeply engrained in the psyche of people in and around Gorakhpur that everyone rises above the caste configurations to vote unitedly to the Mutt supported candidate during polls. “Then no arithmetic or caste equation works here. This has been well reflected time and again during the last three decades. This time BJP ignored this fact and paid for it,” said a senior local leader associated with Mutt .
Moreover, the SP candidate exploited this fact and flagged out his association with the Mutt to win the devotees’ support. He would claim that he was a mutt follower and in absence of Mahantji, he should get the support of Mutt followers. He even paid a couple of visits to the Gorakhnath temple showing off his association with peeth. This might have polished Nishad’s fortunes.
However, as per the highly-placed sources, Yogi Aditayanath had suggested three prospective names of which two were from Mutt, but the high command chose Upendra Dutt Shukla, a close aide of Shiv Pratap Shukla, Yogi bête noir in Gorakhpur, possibly to have a power balance in the region. Shiv Pratap Shukla is Union Minister of State for Finance now.
"This time around as majahraji (Yogi Adityanath) or a temple candidate was not there in the fray, the votes shifted in favour of a mutt follower who had also struck the right caste equations," said a senior associate of Gorakhnath temple.