As Yogi arrived at 8.45am, everyone ran to touch his feet and wish him good luck for winning fifth consecutive term as MP. Crowd manager Danda Baba streamlined the crowd and Yogi ordered serving of prasad – a sweet-salty slim lassi – which no one dared to refuse.
The firebrand leader issued some last minute instructions to his army of volunteers. “Your job is to ensure that every voter in your constituency leaves the comfort of his home and goes to vote,” he told them.
Ashish Singh, one of the volunteers, has been given the charge of Kundraghat, booth number 414. Brimming with confidence, Singh is sure of the result. “No one else but Babaji (Yogi) can win here. We are now trying to ensure that he gets the highest margin of victory,” he said.
Requesting anonymity, another volunteer added, “We are trying to ensure that Yogi Ji wins by a margin of four lakh votes.” In 2009, Adityanath locked his victorywith 2.20 lakh votes, which was among top 10 in Uttar Pradesh. Congress president had Sonia Gandhi had the highest victory margin in 2009 — 3.71 lakh votes.
Yogi largely banks on this second line of volunteers for his win and says he is quite proud of them. “Their main job is to keep an eye on the activities outside the polling station while the polling agents remain active inside,” he told TOI. As per estimates, there are some 10,000 such volunteers in urban localities of Gorakhpur alone, while there may be over 30,000 in Kushinagar, Maharajganj and Deoria.
But the average voter turnout in Gorakhpur in the past four Lok Sabha elections has been 48.9%. So will the magic of this additional workforce work this time too? Yogi says, “Most people in Gorakhpur vote but that doesn’t reflect in figures only because the voter list is faulty.” But that doesn’t stop him from praising the Election Commission. “EC ki hanak bani hui hai (EC’s prestige is high here),” he says.
On the common refrain in Gorkakhpur that “BJP needs Yogi more than yogi needs it”, he says, “We are of use to each other. There is no other political party upholding the Hindutva agenda to which I am committed. In return, I am there for the party as and when needed.”