GORAKHPUR: Until you meet a politician, only a clairvoyant can figure out that Gorakhpur is a poll battlefield. A yellow statue of Mahatma Gandhi is stuck in the middle of time on a pedestal interrupting the flow of claustrophobic traffic. Gorakhpur is the undisputed fiefdom of five-time MP Yogi Adityanath whose spiritual connect with the BJP is tempered with realpolitik. Make no mistake, there are people in this vintage city who carry his photograph in their pockets.
But make no mistake too that they are all in love with the BJP: Leaders of the Hindu Vahini, a Hindutva outfit that swears loyalty to Adityanath, are not pleased that Yogi’s men haven’t got the representation they believe his clout deserves.
Sunil Singh, a long-time aide and disciple of the godman, is canvassing for anti-BJP votes. He is certain that Hindu Vahini’s agenda dovetails with his spiritual master's. He also insists the BJP should’ve treated him better.
“So is the Yogi happy about his disciples fighting the BJP?"
"Absolutely, but it’s just temporary."
"Has he permitted this disobedience?"
"Did Hanuman ask Ram’s permission to burn Lanka down? He did it because he felt his Lord was insulted."
In this land where Ram's warrior legacy runs deep, and is devoid of the expected sloganeering of a bitter poll war, the outcome will decide when the godman’s silence will be broken. The BJP had refused to declare him the future chief minister of UP, following its usual policy. For the time being the obedient soldier of Narendra Modi’s battalion in Gorakhpur shows no signs of displeasure. His campaign, Sunil Singh says, avoids constituencies where some of his miffed disciples are contesting. It is is about mass contact. And he denies any complicity with disobedient followers. In fact, the diminutive saffron-clad sanyasi is dismissive.
It’s clear by the adulation of worshippers who have come far and wide bearing petitions and plaints that Yogi Adityanath will have the last word. Uma Bharti is at his sprawling ashram shaded by old trees, waiting for him to finish to have a few words about the campaign. Or to simply seek the blessings of Baba Gorakhnath.
Undoubtedly, it will be Yogi who is scripting Narendra Modi’s agenda and the BJP’s victory in Gorakhpur. He holds sway in 60 seats of which he expects to win half. The story has just begun.