PM may replace CM as BJP mascot for UP election

Exodus impact: Modi may replace Yogi as BJP mascot in Uttar Pradesh

As many as 11 BJP legislators have resigned from the ministry and the party in the past four days

Yogi may be replaced with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the party's mascot in the state, as per sources. Credit: PTI File Photo

Till a few days back, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was billed as the most popular face of the BJP in the state. As someone who was a crowd puller, many in his party also believed that he could emerge as a challenger to the saffron party's tallest leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In saffron-clad Adityanath, the BJP as well as scores of saffron outfits saw a man who believed in hardcore Hindutva and who could easily 'polarise' any electoral contest along religious lines through his aggressive tenor at public meetings.

But that was until the saffron party witnessed mass desertions of its senior-ranking OBC, dalit and Brahmin leaders who made their way into its main electoral rival - the Samajwadi Party (SP).

Also Read | Battle for UP: Samajwadi Party faces problem of plenty

As many as 11 BJP legislators, including three powerful ministers hailing from the OBC and dalit communities have resigned from the ministry and the party in the past four days. A few more resignations are in the offing, according to the sources. Those exiting were the ones who had played a key role in the massive win of the saffron party in the 2017 assembly elections as they had brought with them a large chunk of non-Yadav and non-Jatav votes to BJP's kitty and helped it secure 40 per cent vote share.

Interestingly all those who deserted the BJP squarely blamed Adityanath for their exit. Swami Prasad Maurya was more candid. ''Lower caste leaders, even deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, were made to sit on the stools before Adityanath,'' he had claimed.

Suddenly, Adityanath appeared to be vulnerable and someone who might not be able to lead the fight in the forthcoming polls, let alone ensure an easy win, which looked certain till a few days ago.

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The desertions have only forced the BJP to re-draw its electoral strategy in UP but have also, what many within the BJP say, impacted the stature of Adityanath and if the sources in the BJP are to be believed, he (Yogi) may be replaced with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the party's mascot in the state.

Although none in the BJP state unit are willing to say that on record, there are murmurs to his effect. "It is clear now Yogiji may not be able to lead the fight...he cannot now be the face of the party....we will require Modiji to take charge of the campaign in the state," said a senior BJP leader while speaking to DH on Friday. 

The leader said that the BJP would need more rallies of Modi if it wanted to return to power even as he admitted that the SP was now very much in the fight in the forthcoming polls.

It certainly appears that the desertions have shaken the saffron party leadership, at least in the state.

That the mass desertions had come as a shock for Adityanath himself was evident when the otherwise fiery CM chose not to take names of the senior ministers and legislators who had been targeting him since their exit from the BJP while speaking to the reporters in Gorakhpur on Friday. He simply said that those who believed in the politics of dynasty and family could never be the real well-wishers of the backwards and dalits as he listed the measures his government had taken for the welfare of the two communities.

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