Adityanath Returns to Karnataka as BJP’s Hindutva Strategy Beckons

Will the losses in Gorakhpur and Phulpur impact UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s position as a star campaigner for the BJP?

3 min read

(This article was first published on 19 March 2018 following the BJP’s losses in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls. At the time, the question that loomed large was – will Yogi Adityanath return to campaign in Karnataka even after losing on his own home turf? We argued that he would. A month and a half later, Adityanath has hit the campaign trail again, with a spree of rallies scheduled, vindicating our analysis.)

Video Editors: Vivek Gupta and Mohd. Irshad Alam
Cameraperson: Shiv Maurya


Uttar Pradesh mein rehna hoga, toh Yogi Yogi kehna hoga!

Well, that’s what they said one year ago when this man became Chief Minister of India’s most populous state. He went from being a controversial MP to a star campaigner for the BJP – giving speeches in Gujarat, Tripura, Karnataka and even Kerala. But now, the BJP lost on his home turf – Gorakhpur.

So where does that leave Ajay Singh Bisht, star campaigner cum communal rabble rouser, better known to the world as Yogi Adityanath?


Even as Yogi travelled across the country seeking to improve his party’s fortunes, voters in his own constituency weren’t too happy. Not just did the BJP lose in the Gorakhpur bypolls, they were defeated in Phulpur too, the Lok Sabha seat of UP Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya. This, despite Yogi himself campaigning in both places.

Opposition leaders couldn’t be any happier. Look hard and you can imagine Siddaramaiah laughing while tweeting this.

So, will these developments change Adityanath’s position as a star campaigner?

To understand that, let’s look at what makes him a star campaigner in the first place.


Yogi's Job Role on the BJP Campaign Trail

Adityanath’s USPs during campaigning are polarizing speeches and an evident condescension for non-BJP ruled states. Take for example, this campaign speech in Gujarat, where he boasted about how kar sevaks had destroyed the Babri Masjid.

Basically, Vikas goes to take a dump every time Yogi starts making a speech.

In Karnataka, he’s asked voters to choose between worshippers of Tipu Sultan and worshippers of saints.

He’s asked CM Siddaramaiah to prove his Hindu credentials by banning cow slaughter.

Playing the communal card – Yogi Adityanath’s role in the BJP’s campaign management infrastructure. And of course, his trademark condescension creates a few controversies too.

He’s gone to Kerala and said Kerala should learn how to run hospitals from UP. But here’s what’s been happening at a hospital in Gorakhpur.


Adityanath’s stock within the BJP grew mostly after the thumping win for the party in the UP Assembly elections of 2017. And despite the loss in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the BJP will still need a polarising figure for its election campaigns in Karnataka and elsewhere.

Reports suggest he may not have any scheduled speeches in Karnataka over the next fortnight. But as the campaign heats up, expect Yogi Adityanath to return.

As a senior BJP leader explained to The Quint, Yogi is part of the issue-wise division of the party’s campaign in Karnataka. Clear roles have been given to each leader.

While Prime Minister Modi will be the face of the party’s promise of development, CM candidate BS Yeddyurappa is projecting himself as a pro-farmer neta. Yogi and leaders like Anant Kumar Hegde form the crucial third group, which is meant to primarily focus on Hindutva and the communal card. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that Yogi will be banished from the Karnataka campaign.

Will Bypoll Losses Hurt Yogi?

So, does this mean that the bypoll losses won’t hurt him at all?

Not quite. For starters, Adityanath’s embarrassment comes as a fillip to Opposition parties, including the Congress. Yogi’s perception may take a hit too – losing on the home turf is difficult to explain.

But the BJP will continue to field Yogi in their campaigns, and Yogi in turn will field his trump card of Hindutva again. Eventually, it’ll be the voters of Karnataka and indeed elsewhere in the country who decide the impact of Yogi Adityanath as a star campaigner.

For now though, Gorakhpur and Phulpur serve as indicators that the rise and rise of Yogi Adityanath has met with a roadblock, in the minds of those very voters who elected him to the Lok Sabha five times on the trot.

With the 2019 General Election just a year away, which way will the graph of the monk who turned CM go?

Janta janardhan, woh hi batayenge. Intezaar jaari hai.

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