A furious Yogi Adityanath is paying the quintessential heartland political game and running rings around the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its president, Amit Shah. On one hand, Adityanath, five time-MP from Gorakhpur and the Mahant (priest) of the Goraknath Math, has ensured that the politics of polarization, close to his heart, such as a debunked Hindu exodus from Kairana, are centre stage in the manifesto.
On the other is the rather fantastical claim that the special purpose vehicle (SPV) of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, which he founded as a youth outfit in 2000, and which draws funds and sustenance from him is farcically acting in opposition to him by declaring its own candidates to rival the BJP.
In Eastern UP, which is Adityanath’s neck of the woods, the HYV, with greater sway than either the RSS or the BJP, has already announced 64 candidates. All of them figured in the short-list given by 43-year-old Adityanath to Shah, who rejected them. This was the first time that Adityanath’s hold over what is called “Mahant’s Ilaka” (the priest’s turf) was challenged – and Adityanath reacted tactically by check-mating Shah with his own list, courtesy the HSB, while claiming that he would expel the officer-bearers who “overruled” him. His team in turn went public on the “injustice done to our inspiration” and blamed “Amit Shah for doing black magic on the Hindu Hridaya Samrat” (ruler of the Hindu heart).
Handling Adityanath has always been a delicate matter for the BJP and even the RSS. The fiery leader is the only one who has never needed Sangh or BJP cadre support to win his five elections. Adityanath is angry with Modi and Shah and makes no bones about it. His contention is that as a five-term MP, he deserved a union ministry, but was denied that. Then he was promised his heart’s desire: his anointment as the BJP’s Chief Ministerial face, but even that promise was broken. Says a member of his camp “Agar Yogi chahey toh Eastern UP mein Shah ki entry band ho jaayegi. Magar woh tap kar rahein hain. Woh ek mass leader hain, or Dilli ek neta sirf aapna chehra chamkana chahtey hain (If Adityanath wants, he can ensure Shah will not be able to enter Eastern UP. But he is helping the BJP, which is back-stabbing him. Some leaders in Delhi are insecure about his mass base and want only to promotes their own faces.”
This is not a subtle dig at the Modi and Shah duo who are the only faces on the BJP posters.