Lucknow: Amid chants of “Yogi ji ka swagat hai” (‘We welcome Yogi ji’) and “Yogi ji ko Jai Shri Ram” (“Jai Shri Ram to Yogi ji”), Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who addressed 16 poll rallies in five days in Himachal Pradesh, emerged as a star campaigner for BJP, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, drawing large crowds.
The voters will decide the fate of 412 candidates in 68 assembly constituencies of the hill state on Saturday. The results will be declared on 8 December.
The party is heavily banking on Yogi’s image of a ‘Hindutva icon’. In the hill state, which has over 95 per cent of Hindu population, according to Census 2011, the BJP leaders feel that it is Yogi’s “charisma”, his image as “the flag-bearer of Hinduism” and his “governance model”, which drew a lot of people to his rallies.
The UP CM campaigned across eight districts (Mandi, Una, Kullu, Shimla, Kangra, Bilaspur, Hamirpur and Solan) in three rounds. His rallies had mentions of Ayodhya and the under-construction Ram temple, double-engine sarkaar, participation of Himachal’s soldiers in the Indo-Pak wars, terrorism and the “dynasty politics” of Congress.
Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the biggest crowd-puller for the BJP, addressed four rallies in Himachal in two rounds of campaign visits. Union home minister Amit Shah addressed 11 rallies in two different rounds.
Among the other CMs of BJP-ruled states, who campaigned in Himachal, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami addressed three rallies each respectively. Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Chouhan was in the list of the star campaigners too but did not campaign, Himachal BJP leaders confirmed.
Yogi’s USP: ‘Flag-bearer of Hinduism, charisma and governance model’
The UP BJP leaders say that the central leadership feels that Yogi’s campaigning will help the party’s prospects in the elections. “The BJP uses its leaders for campaigning in other states as all leaders are workers at the end of the day… The Yogi model has emerged as one of strictness and sushasan (good governance) which is why he is campaigning in other states as well,” UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi told ThePrint.
Speaking to ThePrint, Himachal Pradesh BJP leaders said that Yogi had emerged as the major crowd-puller for them after PM Modi and addressed more rallies this time than during the 2017 Himachal Pradesh assembly polls.
An analysis of Yogi’s campaign trail for the November 2017 Himachal elections by ThePrint showed that he addressed at least 10 rallies in Sri Renukaji, Arki, Haroli, Nalagarh, Dadasiba, Nagrota Bagwan, Hamirpur, Doon, Jogindernagar and Sujanpur assembly constituencies of the hill state.
HP BJP state president Suresh Kashyap told ThePrint, “Among the big leaders, the PM and Yogi were in great demand. Himachal Pradesh is Devbhoomi (land of the gods and goddesses) and Yogi’s rallies created a new enthusiasm in the cadre and the crowd.”
Speaking to ThePrint, Ghanshyam Sharma, convenor of the BJP’s ex-employees cell and the chairman of the Employees-pensioners Shramik Board of Himachal Pradesh told ThePrint that the UP CM has emerged as the icon of Hinduism and people want to see him because of his “charisma”. He formed the government in Uttar Pradesh for the second consecutive term with majority. He has emerged as the flag-bearer of Hinduism.”
Attempt at polarisation: Cong
While the BJP is projecting Yogi Adityanath as a major crowd-puller, the opposition Congress sees it as an “attempt to polarise the largely peaceful state”.
Speaking to ThePrint, All India Congress Committee spokesperson and former HPCC chief Kuldeep Rathore told ThePrint that the BJP knows Himachal is a lost battle for them.
“The way the PM reached Himachal shows the BJP’s insecurity. They are employing all possible means because they are insecure. The UP CM has been brought to Himachal because they want to polarize the state but people of Himachal Pradesh have made up their mind (in favour of Congress). Look at what happened in the four bypolls here. People here are very secular,” he said.
In the bypolls held on October 30, Congress retained two of its assembly seats of Fatehpur and Arki while it wresting the Mandi Lok Sabha seat and Jubbal-Kotkhai assembly seat from BJP.
Asked about the Congress’ allegations of attempts at polarisation, Sharma said that the 2022 Himachal Pradesh elections are different from the previous ones. “…[T]his time, local issues have taken a backseat and elections are being fought on national issues,” he said.
Kashyap said that Congress has become issue-less which is why it was raising the matter of polarisation.
(Edited by Anumeha)