Gorakhpur (UP), May 14 : There are certainly high stakes in the last phase of elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Among others - the polls and the outcome would decide the political fortunes of Yogi Adityanath, the state's hardliner Chief Minister. In 2017 - when he was named as the BJP's choice of Chief Minister, it was generally presumed that the party chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have authorized him to 'anchor' BJP's massive victory and also given the pro-Hindutva groups a new generation of leadership.
The saffron-clad Adityanath, born Ajay Singh Bisht in 1972, is 22-years younger than Prime Minister Modi himself. Political commentators endorsed Yogi - who follows an ascetic life style - as the 'new face' of the saffron outfit. From Tripura in eastern corner to Karnataka in down south - Yogi has been on much demand to campaign for the party candidates.
However, Yogi and also the BJP leadership got a shocker when in the by-poll in 2018, the saffron party was humbled in Gorakhpur. This feat broke the monopoly of the Hindutva politics in the constituency and thus the May 19 election in Gorakhpur and adjoining areas have lot of stakes for the Chief Minister.
Thus, the BJP poll strategists are not leaving anything to chance and right from bringing a celebrity (Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan Shukla) to contest, the party has done the right caste arithmetic. Of course - as usual - how much of it really works in his favour - remains in the womb of time.
Politics in UP are characterized by caste equations. In 2014, a strong pro-Modi wave had broken that syndrome. But other things also matter. Personal wealth or economic resources of the Netas and the direct and indirect influence of musclemen.
The Chief Minister thus faces challenges both in Gorakhpur and adjoining constituencies. Yogi is chief priest of the state's famed Gorakhnath temple and his politics too is only revolving around hard-line views on Hindu religion and practice.
Although a hard-liner, Adityanath was never a member of the socio-political group RSS, the powerful engine room that runs the BJP and has considerable influence on the government machinery to push the agenda. About two years back, Trinamool MP Idris Ali had tried to 'unleash' the shrewd strategy at work in making Adityanath the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
"Look at the master card they have played: compared to Adityanath's chauvinistic hard-liner image, Modi will now appear the sober catalyst of development. This suits the BJP's image for Narendra Modi," Ali has told this correspondent.
Some also said - the Adityanath-Modi combination is the "ideal" synthesis of majority politics (pro-Hindutva) and development.
But there have been talks about certain differences between Yogi Aditynath and Amit Shah if not with Prime Minister Modi.
All these have only made the challenge more complex. On this backdrop, however, there is a school of thought which has tried to underline a message that contrary to expectations Yogi has also 'failed' to deliver.
In 2018 assembly elections across three Hindi heartland states - Yogi campaigned perhaps more than Prime Minister himself - and the result was saffron party's ouster from all the three states - Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
To many again - especially in national perspective Yogi's politics is seen as something to the "detriment" of 14 percent of India’s population.
More than once, Yogi has lauded US President Donald Trump's radical views on Muslims and said India should emulate such a stance to fight terror.
He has in the past even criticized Mother Teresa. In 2007, Yogi was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace which led to further unrest in the eastern UP.
His supporters also allegedly set fire to several coaches of the Mumbai-Gorakhpur Godan express train.
But the fact his addressing of nearly 70 rallies in 2018 assembly polls in three states only show that mere divisive vitriolic, invoking Lord Rama or Lord Hanuman and indirect way stoking hatred cannot give votes.
So, in the event BJP fails in Gorakhpur and eastern UP - which had played critical role in giving a landslide victory to Modi in 2014 -- the going will be tough for the man - who like PM Modi - is also known for his alleged autocratic style of functioning.
To the rivals of BJP, the saffron party's agenda of Hindu nation is "no more a hidden agenda".
Yogi Adityanath has been bold and firm speaking about it and "acting on it" - now it will be left to the people of Uttar Pradesh whether to accept it or crush it.UNI