UP Election 2017: BJP chief Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath at a massive road show in Gorakhpur
Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh):
BJP chief Amit Shah rode a truck draped in marigold down the narrow lanes of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh on the last day of campaigning for the sixth round of assembly elections. By his side stood Yogi Adityanath, the long-time BJP Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur and the head priest of the Gorakhnath temple in the eastern UP city.
The optics was important for the BJP. In the sixth and seventh rounds, the last in a marathon election, polling will be held for 89 seats in eastern UP, seen at the 45-year-old Yogi Adityanath's stronghold. The BJP has campaigned here under the shadow of a rebellion by his supporters - disowned by the Yogi - who are upset that their leader was not projected by the party as its presumptive chief minister. At least 20 such rebels are said to be contesting the elections under the Shiv Sena's symbol, threatening to spoil the BJP's chances.
The BJP had won only 11 of the 89 seats in 2012, though it swept all the parliament seats in the region in 2014 amid a massive Modi wave that saw the party win 71 of the state's 80 seats in the national election.
Today's six-km road show in three hours drew thousands of people who walked alongside Mr Shah's open truck, holding up party flags and cutouts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and shouting slogans of "Jai Shri Ram
Though the BJP has kept the Ram temple low key in its UP campaign, Yogi Adityanath has said if a BJP government is installed in state capital Lucknow, it will be a frontline agenda again. The five-term Lok Sabha member from Gorakhpur is not only a star campaigner for the BJP, he is also the party's "Hindutva" mascot. While the party, led by PM Modi and Amit Shah, has focused on pitching development to UP, the Yogi has not shied away from hard attacks on the Samajwadi Party government of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav over "Muslim appeasement," promising that a BJP government will protect the "Hindu interest."
"If a Samajwadi Party government comes back to power, then money meant for your development will go into developing kabristans
(graveyards). A BJP government will pave the way for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya," Yogi Adityanath has said in a string of public meetings.
He told news agency Press Trust of India that his agenda is that of development for all but it is against the "SP and BSP politics of appeasement of one community."