Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has been an extremely busy politician over the past one month. He has addressed 74 election rallies across four out of the five states where assembly polls were to be held, with the maximum - 26 - being in Rajasthan.
The saffron-clad firebrand leader has outnumbered even Prime Minister Narendra Modi in terms of campaign rallies for these elections, which have been billed as the big semi-final before the 2019 general elections.
The rise in his number of rallies cements Yogi Adityanath as the BJP’s most sought-after ‘star campaigner’, but it is also indicative of the party’s changing political strategy for the elections.
A senior leader of the BJP, not willing to be quoted, said, “In all three crucial states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the party faced a tough political challenge from a resurgent Congress. Focusing on aggressive Hindutva was, therefore, a necessity. And who else than Yogi Adityanath fits the best in that narrative.”
The UP CM addressed 17 rallies in Madhya Pradesh, 23 in Chhattisgarh and 26 in Rajasthan. He also campaigned in Telangana, and held eight rallies in the state. His overall tally is the highest for any star campaigner of the BJP.
In most of his public addresses, Adityanath has reinforced his Hindutva credentials and repeatedly invoked Lord Ram’s name. This comes amid the growing clamour from Hindu outfits and some BJP leaders to start the construction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
Analysts said it was a part of BJP’s two-pronged strategy to appeal to a wide base of voters - Adityanath is employed to reinforce Hindutva narrative while Prime Minister Narendra Modi projects himself as the man for development.
But the UP CM’s media advisor, Mritunjay Kumar, doesn't agree that it is reflective of a changed strategy. He says that even before the assembly elections in five states, Adityanath was a highly sought after campaigner in Gujrat and then Karnataka.
But unlike Gujrat and Karnataka, Adityanath undoubtedly stuck to an aggressive Hindutva agenda in his latest campaign blitzkrieg.
While in Madhya Pradesh, he stoked a controversy by saying “Aapko Ali Mubarak, hamare liye to Bajrangbali hi kaafi hain”, in Rajasthan, he created a furore by saying Lord Hanuman was a Dalit as he looked to garner votes from the community.
Yogi's greater demand in Rajasthan, sources said, is also an indication of RSS's reliance on him.
Political observers say, in the toughest state of Rajasthan, more than Modi, it’s Yogi who may be useful in winning votes.
He can influence a large section of Dalits and backwards through his larger persona of Hindutva and the historical connect of Nath sect and Goraksh Math with Rajasthan.
But his political commitments has also brought him criticism in Uttar Pradesh, especially his handling of the Bulandshahr violence. December 11 will tell us whether his efforts have borne fruit and the strategy paid off.