Yogi Adityanath addressed 26 rallies, travelling to all 16 districts where elections were held
Lucknow: The BJP has taken an early lead in seven of 16 municipal corporations in Uttar Pradesh, as counting of votes began this morning for crucial urban body elections, seen as Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's first big test. The Chief Minister conducted a turbo-charged campaign, aware that his party's performance is being watched closely after its massive sweep of the state in March this year. Voting was held on three days over 10 days, the last phase on Thursday.
Elections were held in 16 municipal corporations, 198 municipal councils and 438 nagar panchayats or Notified Area Councils. 3.32 crore people in urban UP voted.
In 2012, the BJP had won 10 of 12 corporations, which have this time been expanded to 16. But of the 194 municipal councils (198 this year), the party had only won 41. A majority of the councils were won by Independents, backed by the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which did not contest the elections directly. Of the 423 nagar panchayats, Independents had won 352 while the BJP got 36.
Chief Minister Adityanath began his campaign with a rally in Ayodhya, which, along with twin city Faizabad, has just been upgraded to a municipal corporation. The 45-year-old Chief Minister addressed 26 rallies, travelling to all 16 districts where civic elections were held.
The 652 local bodies for which elections were held cover over 30 per cent of the state's population, the Chief Minister has pointed out underscoring how key the civic polls are. "The lives of the other 70 percent revolve around these local bodies," he said.
Yogi Adityanath's election pitch was simple. He asked voters to support the BJP just the way they did in the 2014 national election and this year's assembly election. The party swept both, winning 73 of the state's 80 parliament seats three years ago and over 300 of 400 seats in the assembly elections.
Mr Adityanath has to both thank his party and prove his worth with a win. After the BJP's humongous win in March, party leaders unexpectedly picked the saffron-robed priest-politician over several frontrunners for the top post.
A powerful local leader in eastern UP and the head priest of the Gorakhnath temple in his home town Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath served as a BJP lawmaker for 19 years and is leading the party in an election across the state for the first time ever.
In this time's contest the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, crushed in the assembly elections, are contesting on their symbols, but in sharp contrast to Yogi Adityanath's high-powered campaign, neither Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav, nor Mayawati campaigned.
The Samajwadi Party, which lost power in UP to the BJP in March, has accused the ruling party of "misusing government machinery to fix the elections" alleging that it tried to rig electronic voting machines. The BJP has called the allegations baseless.