When in doubt, deploy Yogi

How to spoonfeed Modi’s masala

By J.P. YADAV
  • Published 25.04.18
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Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath eats dinner with a spoon at a Dalit family’s home during his visit to Kandhaipur Madhupur village in Pratapgarh district on Monday. The chief minister is scheduled to spend a night at a Dalit majority village later this week. The initiative comes at a time the BJP has been accused of ignoring the interests of the weaker sections. The culinary diplomacy took place a few days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his party not to make controversial remarks that give “masala” to the media. Modi’s advice drew derision from the BJP’s oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, on Tuesday. The editorial in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana said: “BJP leaders and ministers must have been inspired by our Prime Minister himself to speak whatever comes to their mind. Till recently, Modi himself gave ‘masala’ to the media. Now the media feels that the spices, pickle and papad given by Rahul Gandhi and others are better.”
(PTI picture)

New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has been persuaded to spend six days in Karnataka and hold some 35 rallies and road shows in the southern state with the BJP deciding to play the aggressive Hindutva card as poll surveys predict no clear winners, sources said.

After the humiliating by-election defeats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, Adityanath had reportedly decided against spending too much time campaigning outside his state. But the party leadership prevailed on him to spare his time for Karnataka, the sources said.

"The party had asked for 10 days but maharaj, after much persuasion, agreed to six days," a politician close to Adityanath said, using a priestly honorific to refer to the saffron-robed chief minister.

Pre-poll surveys by some news channels and internal assessments by the BJP have not projected a clear victory for the party. Most of them predict a hung Assembly amid a close contest with the ruling Congress.

The thrust of the BJP campaign in the state already seems to be replicating the "Yogi style" of bluntly pitching polarising issues. Some BJP leaders are focusing on the Ram temple and painting the Congress as a party opposed to a temple in Ayodhya.

"Hindutva will be the main thrust of our campaign in Karnataka. Yogi Adityanath, who is known for championing the construction of a Ram temple, will be the top campaigner after Prime Minister Narendra Modi," said a BJP politician involved in Karnataka affairs. Modi is scheduled to address over a dozen rallies.

Adityanath is expected to start his campaign early in May and stay on the trail till the last day of canvassing on May 10. Polling is scheduled for May 12.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister has been the party's star campaigner in almost all recent elections. He was deployed heavily in the Tripura elections, which the BJP swept.

Adityanath had addressed a few rallies in Karnataka before the poll dates were announced. "Owing to the dominance of religious mutts in Karnataka, he is very popular in the state and draws huge crowds," a BJP politician said.

After the party's shock defeat in Gorakhpur, the Lok Sabha seat vacated by Adityanath and considered a citadel of the monk, the chief minister had withdrawn himself from campaigning. He was devoting his time to improving governance in Uttar Pradesh, fearing he could be annoying people by neglecting his duties to the state.

"The contest in Karnataka appears very keen. Although regular surveys have shown that our situation is improving every day, we are not taking any chances. We want to go full throttle and win at any cost," said a BJP leader associated with planning the campaign for the party's candidate for chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa.

Party insiders said Amit Shah had drawn up a strategy to overwhelm the southern state with an unprecedented style of campaigning to overshadow the Congress. Shah has asked central ministers, chief ministers and other leaders, besides Modi, to campaign in Karnataka.