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'Not surprised at what Arvind Kejriwal said': Dump 'rumour' on Yogi Adityanath not new in stronghold

We are not surprised at what the AAP chief said. We believe that even Maharajji suspects it: Gorakhnath temple employee

Piyush Srivastava Gorakhpur Published 18.05.24, 06:00 AM
Yogi Adityanath.

Yogi Adityanath. File Photo.

Speculation about a BJP lobby "conspiring" to oust Yogi Adityanath as chief minister had been swirling in and around the Gorakhnath temple for months if not years, long before Arvind Kejriwal expressed the suspicion in public.

Conversations with several temple employees, local BJP politicians and ordinary devotees in Gorakhpur suggested they were staunchly behind their "Maharajji" and former MP, and expected him to outwit his enemies.

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Kejriwal had last week claimed that if Narendra Modi was re-elected, Adityanath would be sacked as chief minister, apparently to pave the way for Amit Shah to succeed Modi as Prime Minister. The Aam Admi Party chief this week underscored that none from the BJP had contested his claim.

At the Gorakhnath temple, where Adityanath is the Mahant, all this is old hat.

"We are not surprised at what the AAP chief said. We believe that even Maharajji suspects it," a temple employee said, asking not to be identified.

"There was a time in 2019 when we came to know about a plan to send him back (from Lucknow) to his mutt in Gorakhpur. But he’s a fighter and wouldn’t give up easily even if Modi insists."

He added: "It was Shah who decided to make him Uttar Pradesh chief minister after the BJP won the 2017 Assembly elections."

The temple employee said: “But he (Shah) soon realised that Maharajji had silently taken his place in the party hierarchy. Since then, he has been trying to harm Maharajji.”

Asked about Kejriwal’s comments by the media in Gorakhpur early this week, Adityanath had walked away, saying: “They (those making the claim) should think about their own problems.”

Defence minister Rajnath Singh made a tepid attempt to deflect the controversy at a public meeting in Lucknow, saying: “Yogi Adityanath has been one of the best chief ministers of UP.”

A local BJP leader in Gorakhpur, who sought anonymity, endorsed Kejriwal’s claim.

“Why was Yogi’s image absent from the banners and hoardings of Modi in Uttar Pradesh during the first three phases of polling? They released a few banners of Modi and Yogi during the fourth phase after Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav began ridiculing us,” he said.

Akhilesh had underlined that “one engine was missing from the government of double engine”. A “double-engine government” is a Modi coinage about the same party being in power in a state and at the Centre.

Kejriwal’s claim has seemingly been bolstered by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the controversial MP of Kaiserganj and former head of the Wrestling Federation of India, whom some top wrestlers have accused of sexual harassment.

Last week, asked who his leader was, Brij Bhushan told the media it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Asked specifically about Adityanath, he remained silent. Pressed, he eventually said: “The PM is our leader and Yogiji is the CM of UP.”

Many here believe that Adityanath wanted the BJP to distance itself from Brij Bhushan following the harassment allegations but Modi and Shah stuck by him. The party has fielded his son Karan Bhushan Singh from Kaiserganj this time.

“We don’t know what will happen but the chief minister spends more time in the mutt than at the chief minister’s office or residence,” Satya Prakash, a regular visitor to the temple, said.

He aired the commonly held suspicion here that one way for the party brass to get rid of Adityanath would be to ask him to choose between the mutt and the chief minister’s chair.

“He holds a Janata Darbar every fortnight at the temple and personally ensures that the complainants are satisfied with his response. He used to hold such darbars (as MP) even before 2017 at the mutt,” Prakash said.

“We have the impression that if asked to give up one post, he will resign as chief minister. Being the mahant of the Gorakhnath temple is more respectable than being chief minister.”

Brajesh Kumar, a Gorakhpur resident, described local perceptions about how Adityanath had outmanoeuvred even the top party leadership.

“In 2021, Modi had sent Arvind Kumar Sharma — a former bureaucrat who had served him in Gujarat and Delhi before joining the BJP — to Lucknow to keep an eye on Yogiji. Adityanath was asked to appoint Sharma as deputy chief minister but he stonewalled the idea,” Kumar said.

“Later that year, when Baby Rani Maurya resigned as Uttarakhand governor and returned to the Uttar Pradesh BJP, we were again apprehensive that she would replace Yogiji. But he again survived.”

Sharma was later appointed urban development minister of Uttar Pradesh. Maurya is the state’s women and child development minister.

Adityanath has in the past acknowledged Shah’s role in his elevation as chief minister. He has described how Shah, then BJP president, had called him after the 2017 election results and told him “a helicopter has reached Gorakhpur, come to Delhi immediately”.

However, Adityanath’s supporters say, several state BJP leaders had earlier tried to queer his pitch during the Assembly elections by trying to project him as anti-party.

Sunil Singh, a former president of the Hindu Yuva Vahini — a militia founded by Adityanath in the 1990s — fielded many of his colleagues from several Assembly seats in the Gorakhpur division against the official party nominees, claiming he had Adityanath’s blessings.

It was later clarified that Singh and those he had fielded had all left the Vahini and had no links with Adityanath. After becoming chief minister, Adityanath dissolved the Vahini.

Singh later joined the Samajwadi Party and declared the BJP would soon humiliate some of its leaders, including Adityanath.

Gorakhpur votes on June 1

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