I remained sceptical about Yogi Adityanath contesting the election from Ayodhya although it was floated, even on the front pages of newspapers, as a probable move. I did not believe he would leave his home turf of Gorakhpur in search of a safe seat in his quest to be the future Hindu 'Hriday Samrat'. Now, there is a new spin being given: that in not being assigned Ayodhya as his constituency, Yogi did not have his way and was shown his place by the top bosses of the BJP. This story is juicy and makes for great reading. But if we accept it, we are signing up to the theory that Yogi Adityanath is not the bold and defiant leader that he used to be.
There was at no point any official confirmation of Yogi moving to Ayodhya. It was relayed on different TV channels and digital platforms that Yogi had sent his special envoy to Ayodhya, and had secretly begun making all arrangements for the contest. It was also said that this is why he had been visiting Ayodhya regularly and had organised a special Diwali event in the temple town. It was also said that his team was distributing smartphones to booth volunteers in Ayodhya to keep them happy and committed. If all that is true, then the theory that he is a powerful leader, and that the RSS has been grooming him for future leadership, falls flat.
It's simply not Yogi's style. Remember, this is the Chief Minister who disregarded Narendra Modi's nominee, A K Sharma, who had been sent to play an important role in UP. At that time, January, 2012, and later, there was talk that A K Sharma would be inducted in the cabinet to monitor and supervise the working of the UP administration as a check point for Yogi. But Yogi did not meet this man for two weeks. Despite all the pressure, he did not let him into the cabinet. He was made 17th Vice President in the state BJP, and till today, he has not been given any work of importance. He was, at the maximum, made in charge of the Prime Minister's constituency i.e., Varanasi, to supervise pandemic care during the second wave. After Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Yogi is the only senior BJP leader who has defied Modi and Amit Shah. It is in the public domain that Modi - Shah wanted him to be replaced by some other leader as Chief Minister, but the RSS put its foot down.
RSS top leaders Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal intervened and brokered a truce between Modi-Shah and Yogi, and another one between Yogi and Keshav Maurya, Number Two in Yogi's cabinet. It was argued that Yogi may not be a huge asset if declared the Chief Minister candidate, but a rebellious Yogi would inflict even larger harm to the BJP, which he is fully capable of doing. If today, Yogi has suddenly turned so meek that he is not even allowed to choose his own constituency, then all that preceded this development is incorrect.
Yogi is just not a political figure, he is also a religious head. He became a sanyasi at a very young age. He left his home and wandered to Gorakhpur where he was later anointed as his successor at Gorakshpeeth, or the Gorakhnath Temple by Mahant Avaidyanath, the then religious head or the Peethadhiswar. After his death on 12 September 2014, Yogi became the Peethadhiswar, the religious head.
Gorakhnath temple is no ordinary temple. It carries the legacy of Nath Sampradaya, founded by Matsyendranath. Gorakhnath was his disciple. It is he who founded Gorakshapeeth, that is the place of Cow Protection, sometime in the 12th century. Gorakhnath is considered one of the greatest saints in India. He was an apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity and was vehemently opposed to the caste system. In the great tradition of Guru Nanak and Kabir, he was against the "distortions of Brahmanism". Due to its egalitarian values, a great number of untouchables and people on the margins of the Hindu religion joined Nath Sampradaya. This legacy continued till approximately 1937 when Mahant Digvijay Nath, the guru of Mahant Avaidyanath, joined Hindu Mahasabha. He was instrumental in placing Ram Lalla idol in Babri Masjid in 1949. He was known for his anti-Muslim diatribe. After him Mahant Avaidyanath became the leading light of Ram Mandir movement. Yogi is carrying their legacy.
Without Gorakhnath Temple, there would be no Yogi. If he had gone to Ayodhya, just to contest elections, he would have lost all the aura that he has acquired as the head of the Gorakhnath Temple. Today, if the RSS finds in him its future leader, it is not because of his politics, but also because of his association with Gorakhnath Temple. He does not need to prove his credentials as a Hindu leader like many in his party. Saffron comes to him naturally; others have to work to establish their allegiance to it.
Yogi's opponents have also been saying that Gorakhpur is not a safe seat for him, which is a total mistake. The Gorakhpur urban seat from where he is contesting now is the safest seat in UP. This seat has been with the saffron parties since 1991. The incumbent has been winning from here since 2002. Even in the 2012 assembly election, when the BJP could muster only 14% votes, this candidate had got 49% votes. Yogi has been winning the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat since 1998. In 1998 and 1999, his victory margin was narrow but from 2004, he has been getting more than 50% votes. In fact, he garnered 63% votes in 2009 and 65% votes in 2014.
So, by any stretch of imagination, Gorakhpur Urban is a good seat, and Yogi should win comfortably. And those who have been weaving all kinds of conspiracy theories should take a break and wait for the results.
(Ashutosh is author of 'Hindu Rashtra' and Editor, satyahindi.com.)
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