Seat held by ‘mahants’ for 34 yrs to see a change this bypoll
GORAKHPUR: The Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat, which has been held by priests of Gorakhnath temple since 1989, is set to see a different representative this time when the bypolls are held for the constituency on March 11.
With the mutt’s current chief Yogi Adityanath moving to the state after he quit the seat on becoming UP chief minister, opposition parties are looking to exploit the opportunity and wrest the seat from the BJP.
District president of the Samajwadi Party, Prahlad Yadav said the absence of the temple’s mahant (head priest) from the fray will be an advantage to us. “Yogi Adityanath drew votes by polarising but now he is the UP CM.” It will be the first time since 1962 that the sitting mahant of Gorakhnath mutt will not be contesting the election.
Since 1967, mahants of Gorakhnath mutt have represented the seat for a total of 32 years. While mahant Digvijaynath held the seat for three years, mahant Avaidyanath and Yogi Adityanath represented Gorakhpur for 9 and 20 years respectively.
Adityanath held the seat for five consecutive terms from 1998–2017. Before him, his mentor and then mahant of Gorakhnath temple, Mahant Avaidyanath represented the constituency for four terms — 1970 (Independent), and continuously from 1989 (Hindu Mahasabha), 1991 and 1996 (BJP). Avaidyanath’s predecessor Mahant Digvijaynath, who had installed Ram Lalla at the disputed site in Ayodhya in 1949, won once in 1967 as a Hindu Mahasabha candidate.
Mahant Digvijaynath was the first temple head to win the seat in 1967 after his failed debut in 1962 as an independent candidate.
Yogi Adityanath, who took over as chief priest of the temple after the demise of his mentor Mahant Avaidyanath in 2014, continues to perform rituals even after becoming the state chief minister. Although the BJP has not announced any names for the bypoll, it is widely believed that the candidate will have Adityanath’s blessings.
Vinay Gautam, public relations officer of Gorakhnath temple, said it would be odd to have someone other than the mahant to contest election on the seat.
“We don’t know whether the BJP candidate will be someone associated with the temple or not. But whosoever is announced as the BJP candidate would be acceptable to all as the name would be decided after getting the nod of Adityanath,” he said.
BJP spokesperson Satyendra Sinha voiced similar views. “The BJP candidate will have the stamp of Yogi Adityanath and voters will support the candidate. The CM has gifted development projects to his constituency after taking over as chief minister,” he said. According to sources, the names of BJP office-bearer Upendra Dutta Shukla and Ganesh Shankar Pandey, nephew of gangster-turned-politician Vinay Shankar Tiwari, are doing the rounds. Political observers say irrespective of the candidate, voters in Gorakhpur have been extending support in the name of Gorakhnath temple for long.
Yogi Adityanath has represented Gorakhpur for 20 years.