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BJP picks polarisation specialist for UP

Yogi Adityanath

New Delhi, Aug. 28: BJP president Amit Shah has tasked Yogi Adityanath, known for making incendiary speeches, to lead the campaign for the by-elections in Uttar Pradesh, offering further proof to critics who feel communal polarisation is the principal arrow in the turnaround star’s quiver.

Yogi, a five-term MP from Gorakhpur, had created a furore in the Lok Sabha where he made an inflammatory speech and also charged the Congress with toeing “Pakistan’s agenda”.

Yogi’s selection as star campaigner came a day after a provocative video purportedly showed him making another hate speech.

Apart from Yogi, Union minister Kalraj Mishra and state party president Laxmikant Vajpayee are the other two star campaigners.

Of the 11 Assembly seats where elections are due on September 13, four — Saharanpur City, Bijnor, Thakurdwara and Noida — are in western Uttar Pradesh, scarred by the Muzaffarnagar communal riots a year ago and the recent riots in Saharanpur.

The announcement of Yogi’s selection coincided with the first anniversary of the beginning of communal tension in Muzaffarnagar that had led to riots in which over 50 people were killed and thousands were displaced.

Union minister Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan, one of the riot accused, attended a prayer meeting today in Malikapura village of Muzaffarnagar, where two Jat boys were allegedly killed by a mob. But the minister did not attend the prayer meeting in neighbouring Kawal village, where a Muslim boy was first killed, in retaliation to whose death the Jat boys were killed.

“This Jat family is like my own family,” Baliyan said, attending the meeting amid tight security.

The riots in Muzaffarnagar and the subsequent communal polarisation across western Uttar Pradesh was believed to have swayed the electoral balance in favour of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP now appears to be banking on what the party leaders term a “sure-shot” strategy to win the by-elections in the 11 Assembly segments and one Lok Sabha seat, Mainpuri, vacated by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The setback in the recent by-elections in Bihar and Karnataka appears to have jolted the party, which does not want to take chances in Uttar Pradesh where it won 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats under Shah’s guidance.

Contacted, Yogi strongly denied that his selection as star campaigner was aimed at polarising voters. “I am a senior leader of the party and have been asked by the party to campaign. It is very wrong to suggest that my selection is aimed at communal polarisation,” he said.

Yogi added that he was a loyal party worker and would work according to the strategy laid down by the party.

In Haryana, which is due to hold Assembly elections, the party has appointed Madhya Pradesh minister Kailash Vijayvargiya as the poll in-charge. During the countrywide protests against the gang rape of a student on a Delhi bus, Vijayvargiya had been quoted as saying women should stay within limits and not cross the “Lakshman rekha”.