- Yogi Adityanth, priest, has huge influence in Eastern UP
- His team says BJP has insulted Adityanath in many ways
- His team puts up candidates against BJP via Shiv Sena
Singh until recently was the head of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a rag-tag army of volunteers loyal to Yogi Adityanath, the BJP's firebrand MP from Gorakhpur, and one of its star campaigners in this election.
Earlier this month, Singh was sacked by his mentor after the Vahini, founded by Adityanath in 2002 named a number of candidates across eastern Uttar Pradesh, supposedly in reaction to the humiliation of the Yogi by the BJP.
Singh told us that the Yogi had been dropped from a BJP committee which finalised seats for the elections; his supporters also felt he did not feature prominently enough in the party's election yatras or tours. The biggest "insult", however, was that the BJP did not make Adityanath its Chief Ministerial candidate.
Gorakhpur votes on March 4. And like many others, the Vahini complains that BJP chief Amit Shah has rewarded defectors from other parties with tickets, instead of picking BJP loyalists.
Speaking to NDTV, Adityanath, 44, said that Singh has no business speaking on his behalf and that the Vahini's revolt is a non-starter. "This (Hindu Yuva Vahini fielding its own candidates) will have no effect (on BJP votes). People have withdrawn their nominations."
We tracked one Vahini candidate, Virendra Tiwari, from the Chauri Chaura seat in Gorakhpur. Tiwari is representative of many of the Vahini's candidates: originally from the BJP, disgruntled at being denied a ticket. "We built the BJP party here from scratch. Now that I am 64 years old, the party has thrown me out. They do not need me anymore," he complained.
The crowds, however, were absent; the response - lukewarm, suggesting that for now, the BJP may have little to worry.
Singh, however, claims "90 per cent of the BJP" in the region is with his outfit. "Hindu Yuva Vahini will reduce the BJP's power base in UP," he said.
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