UP elections: Home Minister Amit Shah will campaign in Mathura today
The BJP's focus today in the Uttar Pradesh campaign is Mathura, one of the three key temple towns after Ayodhya and Varanasi. Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath are covering western UP today, which has over 100 assembly seats and will see voting in three of the seven-phase elections.
The BJP is battling an "unpopularity" perception in western UP after a year-long protest by farmers against the now-withdrawn three farm laws. In the last assembly election in 2017, the BJP won 76 per cent seats in western UP.
This time, the math is not so simple. Jats are a deciding factor in almost all the seats in western Uttar Pradesh, a region where the Rashtriya Lok Dal, or RLD, enjoys influence among the community. The RLD, led by former Prime Minister Charan Singh's grandson Jayant Chaudhary, has joined hands with Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party this time.
The RLD chief has chosen the "wrong home", Mr Shah said at a meeting with Jat leaders in Delhi, news agency PTI reported.
Mr Shah will offer prayers at Shri Banke Bihari Mandir in Vrindavan, and will later meet with supporters in Mathura. Today's visit is being seen as part of the BJP's efforts to project Mathura as one of the three symbolic Hindutva bastions after Ayodhya and Varanasi.
Both Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya have recently made remarks about revival of the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple.
"After Ayodhya and Kashi (Varanasi), can Vrindavan-Mathura be left behind?" Yogi Adityanath said at a rally in Mathura on December 29.
A few days later after Yogi Adityanath's comment, Mr Maurya tweeted, "Construction of the majestic temples in Ayodhya and Kashi is going on. Mathura's turn is next?"
All the five assembly seats in Mathura will see voting in the first phase on February 10. The big fight is between current MLA and UP Power Minister Shrikant Sharma and four-time Congress MLA Pradeep Mathur.
UP has 403 assembly seats. Votes will be counted on March 10.