Will the 'Yogi factor' emerge as BJP's game changer in Purvanchal Lok Sabha seats?

PM Modi, who had been making subtle references to the UP CM’s governance in earlier rallies, started praising him with no qualms as the poll scene shifted to Purvanchal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during a roadshow ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in Ayodhya
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during a roadshow ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in AyodhyaPhoto | EPS

LUCKNOW: The ongoing Lok Sabha election steeped deep into Uttar Pradesh's Purvanchal is reaching its climax. The arena for the final bout of the gladiatorial battle is all set in Varanasi (PM Modi’s constituency), Gorakhpur (the fortress of UP CM Yogi Adityanath) and Ghazipur (the bastion of the infamous Ansari brothers).

Moreover, it is also a test of the political clout of smaller stakeholders like Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal (S), OP Rajbhar of SBSP and Sanjay Nishad of NISAHD, and their credibility as saffron allies.

13 seats are up for grabs in phase 7 and the last leg of voting which will take place on June 1.

Express Graphics

Although PM Narendra Modi is widely regarded as one of the most influential leaders in the political history of independent India and is the prominent figure for the BJP during the campaign, the Yogi Adityanath phenomenon, particularly his pro-development and anti-mafia stance as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, along with his unwavering commitment to Hindutva, is gaining traction in the eastern region.

PM Modi, who had been making subtle references to the UP CM’s governance in earlier rallies, started praising him with no qualms as the poll scene shifted to Purvanchal.

The PM has been highlighting Yogi’s ‘bulldozer’ action against gangsters, and dreaded mafias bringing much-needed relief to the people from their reign of terror and intimidation.

It is evident that the PM does not forget to applaud Yogi’s efforts to curb corrupt and criminal elements while underscoring the development works and the effective implementation of central welfare schemes after Yogi Adityanath assumed the office of UP CM.

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Significantly, similar sentiments are echoed by the people on the ground.

However, despite relentless efforts by the opposition, especially AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, to derail the saffron brigade’s campaign by creating doubt in voters’ minds over the alleged plan of BJP’s top brass to replace Yogi as UP CM two months after the June 4 results, this Mahant of Gorakshnath Peeth has emerged as a big benefactor for his party.

He has proved it time and again, having stormed impregnable rival citadels in successive polls, and stood out as the only UP CM to have repeated a term in the last 35 years in Lucknow.

Yogi Adityanath does not mince words when he assails the opposition for trying to drive a wedge in the BJP by spreading canards and false propaganda about his removal.

Dispelling doubts, he comes out unhesitatingly to claim that being a Yogi, who is detached from power, his only priority is to work for the values and ideologies of the party he is associated with in favour of the nation.

"Actually, the opposition is devoid of issues. They have always been into such kind of negative and divisive politics. Even otherwise I am a Yogi and my priority is not to get power but to work for the values and ideologies of the party for which we chose politics and public life. Kejriwal ji, you have departed from your ideals for the sake of power. But I will reject the power for the sake of my ideals not only in this birth but even in 100 such births. I will continue to work for my party's ideology of 'Nation First' with dedication," he asserts when his reaction is sought over the issue.

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According to political observers, even though the Delhi CM has tried to create a narrative that all is not well within the BJP and the top brass will not tolerate Yogi because of his growing popularity, his indispensability lies in his style of governance, his spotless integrity and an image of being a nemesis to mafia and criminals.

Moreover, Yogi Adityanath draws his popularity from flaunting his staunch Hindutva credentials.

Cutting through the caste calculus of rivals like the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, Yogi helped his party sweep the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2022 assembly elections, winning all six parliamentary seats and 27 out of 28 assembly seats in Gorakhpur division.

Out of the 13 constituencies going to the polls in the last leg on June 1, the BJP and its ally Apna Dal (S) had won 11 seats except Ghazipur and Ghosi which went to the BSP while the SP and Congress failed to open their account in 2019.

On his home turf Gorakhpur, Yogi has consolidated the BJP’s hold after becoming UP CM with his governance, development and deliverance of welfare schemes in tandem with the Hindutva plank quintessential to his image of being a Hindu mascot.

Ever since the 2024 election notification, Yogi Adityanath has addressed over 200 rallies across the country as one of the busiest star campaigners of the BJP.

In the 13 Lok Sabha seats of the last leg, the BJP is facing a challenge from the INDIA bloc, especially the Samajwadi Party which is trying to regain its lost ground in Purvanchal.

The BJP seems to be depending on the 'Yogi mantra' a little too much both as UP CM and also Mahant of Gorakshnath Peeth, considered to be the axis of eastern UP politics, to counter the opposition’s caste arithmetic.

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With Yogi leading the campaign from the front, the BJP has mobilised its cadre and pressed the party machinery into service to regain both seats this time.

With three days left for polling, Yogi has shifted base to Gorakhpur, holding back-to-back half-a-dozen rallies across the 13 seats daily.

When in Gorakhpur, he performs his social responsibilities as the head priest of Gorakhnath temple, to remain connected with people approaching him transcending all social barriers.

The Yogi factor has been working dominantly for the BJP not only in Dalit-dominated reserved seat Bansgaon, Kushinagar, Maharajganj but also Brahmin-Rajput and Bhumihar dominated Ballia, Deoria and Salempur besides Ghosi in Mau.

Yogi’s sahbhoj (community feasts) in Dalit-OBC-dominated villages gives him an edge in winning their support.

Even the BJP top brass realises the potential of brand 'Yogi Adityanath' which has proved its mettle in making development a reality in this backward region.

“The stature of Yogi Adityanath is much taller than that of several BJP CMs as well as some Union ministers,” feels Prof SK Dwivedi, former HoD, Political Science, Lucknow University. He adds that being aware of the significance of Yogi Adityanath, PM Modi mentions him strategically along with ‘Modi ki guarantee’ in his public meetings in east UP.

“The BJP is aware of Yogi’s all-India appeal which will be further consolidated if the UP result is different from that in other states,” says Prof Dwivedi.

Gorakhpur-based social activist Mumtaz Khan says that the Yogi factor fetches votes for the BJP in Purvanchal and party knows it.

“The metamorphosis of Purvanchal under Yogi as CM is palpable. He has proved to be a game changer for the region,” he adds.

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