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‘Prestige’ seat Gorakhpur: Major hurdles for the BJP


New Delhi, May 15: Winning Gorakhpur has become a matter of prestige for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Once considered Yogi Adityanath's bastion, the BJP lost to the SP-BSP alliance in the 2018 by-polls.

The bye poll blow came after the BJP tasted the back to back successes in the Uttar Pradesh. The party won 73 out of the 80 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and in 2017, the BJP convincingly won the assembly elections. Many read by-poll result as the UP's strong message to the BJP that the party cannot take the voters of politically most crucial state for granted.

BJP candidate from Gorakhpur constituency Ravi Kishan appeals for votes during his roadshow for Lok Sabha polls, in Gorakhpur

The constituency that Yogi Adityanath represented for five terms before vacating it in 2017 was wrested away from the BJP in a bypoll. Samajwadi Party's Praveen Kumar Nishad defeated BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla by a margin of 21,881 votes in the by elections, dealing a blow to the BJP's prestige. The BJP is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that Gorakhpur is back in their kitty. With SP, BSP and RLD forming a magathbandhan, and Congress and BJP in the fray, Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency is set for a three-way contest. This time, BJP has fielded actor-turned-politician Ravi Kishan from the constituency. He is up against Congress' Madhusudan Tiwari and SP's Ram Bhuwal Nishad.

One cause of worry for the BJP is that out of the 20 lakh population of Gorakhpur, BJP's traditional vote bank - the Brahmins and the Upper Caste- are just 4 lakh. The BSP and the SP are contesting the Lok Sabha polls together and are claiming to stop the BJP juggernaut with their carefully stitched alliance based on caste equations.

Battle Gorakhpur hots up: Can BJP retain its bastion after a shake up?

The alliance candidate will attract a majority of OBCs, Dalit and Muslim votes, while Congress' Tiwari will cut into the BJP's Brahmin votes as well as the SP-BSP's Muslim votes. Nishads play a dominant role here, as they constitute 3.5 lakh of the population.

One of the factors behind the BJP's by-poll loss was the death of 60 children in Gorakhpur's BRD Medical College in August 2017, allegedly due to a shortage of oxygen. Most of them were Japanese encephalitis (JE) patients receiving treatment at the special ward. The issue may still be fresh in the minds of those who were affected by the tragedy.

The major factor behind Yogi's continuous run was the influence of Math. Some believe that the Math's influence is dwindling. It is also being speculated if Ravi Kishan, who is BJP's candidate this time, has Math's backing or not. Yogi Adityanath was expected to accompany Kishan for nomination but he skipped. Yogi hasn't held any campaign or road show with him so far.

The BJP just cannot afford to lose Gorakhpur. Losing Gorakhpur once again will be a moral shattering for the BJP. Even though, 2018 bye election winning candidate Praveen Nishad is now in the BJP, the support of the community is not guaranteed. Whatever it is, Gorakhpur is not going to be a cake walk for the BJP.

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