How Yogi Adityanath's Citadel Fell: Decoding BJP's Gorakhpur Bypoll Loss

While some BJP supporters switched loyalties in the recent Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypoll, a section of Nishads and Dalits who had voted for the BJP in 2014 snubbed the party this time

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Yogi Adityanath has blamed overconfidence for the BJP's Lok Sabha bypoll defeat in Uttar Pradesh

Gorakhpur:  In the villages of Pipraich, one of the five assembly segments in the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh, lie the clues to the BJP's shock bypoll defeat.

In the recent bypolls, the BJP candidate's lead over his Samajwadi Party rival was only 243 votes in the segment, far smaller than the nearly 40,000 lead the BJP had in Pipraich over the collective vote share of the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Peace Party in 2014.

Many men and women in Nayya Paar, one of the 413 booths in Pipraich, were fans of Yogi Adityanath, who is also the head priest of the Gorakhnath temple, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They say they had voted for the BJP in 2014 but this time they switched loyalties.

"We used to run around baba (Yogi Adityanath) when he came to Nayya Paar, we would take a bullet for him, he was holy," said Girish Bhardwaj, a local resident. Now, he alleges that the chief minister doesn't heed the complaints of the poor when he visits, choosing to meet richer residents instead. "Baba kicked us, Modi threw us out, what can we do? How do we back those who do not support us?"

Many women of the village had also shifted their vote from the BJP to the SP. And demonetisation was clearly an issue for them.

"Baba and Modi made people throw away so much money. If they had given that money to the poor to build a shelter and live somewhere, it would have been so good," said Madhuri Devi, a resident of Nayya Paar. "But no, not to the poor, burn it, throw it in the pond, but Gorakhnath baba didn't support the poor."

The social dynamics created by the electoral understanding between the SP and BSP was also at work here.

NDTV spoke with members of the Nishad community, from the boatman caste that the candidate fielded by the SP belongs to, as well as Dalits, the BSP's core base.

In 2014, a section of the Nishads and Dalits had voted for the BJP; not this time, they say.

"Before this, 40 per cent of the Nishad community voted for the temple," said Nagendra Nishad, a resident of Pipraich. "But now the community has woken up to their lies, there is no reservation, they have given us nothing."

In addition, BSP voters turned out in force to convince the party supporters to vote for the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP, and that made a dent in the BJP's vote bank.

"Forget old animosities, now it's about bua-bhatija," said Shiv Shankar Ram, a supporter of the BSP who lives in Gorakhpur Rural, an assembly segment where the SP took a lead of 16,281 votes over the BJP. "Behenji's instructions came in the newspapers, on television that we should vote for the SP, so all BSP supporters voted for the SP."

Even in Gorakhpur City assembly segment, the BJP's bastion, the party's margin fell from 81,812 to 24,577, which BJP workers blame on poor voter turnout.

Fascinatingly, the dip in total votes polled in Gorakhpur Urban, 42,472 votes, corresponds almost exactly to the 43,579 fewer votes the BJP got in 2018 in comparison to 2014. Meanwhile, the collective support for the opposition alliance rose by over 13,000 votes. Clearly, BJP voters chose not to vote this time.

"We don't consider this a loss because voter turnout was low," explained Ajay Agarwal, a local BJP worker. "We weren't prepared for the SP-BSP's sudden alliance but it isn't that all the Dalit votes went to them."

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