Lucknow, March 26: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath today revealed that BJP chief Amit Shah had summoned him to Delhi by a chartered flight in the middle of the Assembly elections following an assessment that the party's prospects were flagging.
Adityanath did not mention the date but a BJP source said the chief minister was possibly referring to his meeting with Shah just before the third phase of polling that had taken place on February 19.
It was on February 19 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had brought up the kabristan-smashan (graveyard-cremation ground) issue at a rally in Fatehpur. "If a kabristan is built in a village, then a smashan should also be constructed there," Modi had said in what was seen as one of the most polarising statements made by any Prime Minister on the campaign trail.
Today, Adityanath did not specify what step the BJP leadership and he had taken to address the misgivings - misplaced, as it turned out - other than giving credit to the "welfare schemes initiated by the Prime Minister, the brilliant poll strategy of Shah and the groundwork done by party workers".
But critics had accused the BJP of having employed polarising tactics - a charge that will gain fresh traction following Adityanath's disclosure of his trip to Delhi and Modi's kabristan statement that followed soon after.
Adityanath spoke of the call from Shah while addressing BJP workers in his hometown Gorakhpur.
"There was a time in the middle of the elections when it appeared that our prospect was flagging. The (BJP's) national president called me on the phone and asked (me about) my whereabouts," the Uttar Pradesh chief minister said. (The results did not reflect the grim assessment: the BJP got majority in every leg of the seven-phase poll.)
"I told him I was in Gorakhpur. He said he wanted to talk something important to me... He said there would be a chartered plane standing here at 6pm and I have to reach there (Delhi). I went to Delhi. He (Shah) asked me how many seats were there in Goraksh Prant (Gorakhpur and adjoining districts)? I said there were 62 constituencies. He said he would give me a target to win at least 40 seats at any cost.
The chief minister didn't say when he met his party chief but a BJP leader, who asked not to be named, said: "According to our information, Adityanath had gone to Delhi in the third week of February, after two phases of polling."
Gorakhpur voted nearly a fortnight later - on March 4, two days after Shah took out a road show - with Adityanath exceeding the expectations of his party chief. But by then the atmosphere had already become charged. "I thank all because we won 46 seats here. Our allies and we together have won 325 out of 403 seats in the state," Adityanath said.