Mutt with political clout | Deccan Herald

For the majority of visitors, especially those from outside Uttar Pradesh who throng the sprawling Gorakhnath temple complex in the heart of Gorakhpur, the birthplace of the Chief Minister of the Northern State, Yogi Adityanath , the place may seem like any other famous temple with devotees bowing to Baba Gorakhnath, the founder of the “Nath” sect of Hinduism, and circling the “Divya Jyoti” (flame eternal).

The ‘Peethadheeshwar’ (leader) is none other than Yogi Adityanath himself, but there is no sign of political activity inside the ‘Peeth’, which was established almost a thousand years ago and is now spread over over 50 acres of land. The elders of Gorakhpur, about 300 km from Lucknow, however, know the kind of political clout the temple had, especially in Poorvanchal or eastern UP.

The first “Mahant” (religious leader), who had made the leap into electoral politics, was Avaidyanath, who had successfully contested Assembly polls in 1962 from Maniram headquarters in Gorakhpur district and emerged from it. victorious. Avaidyanath later became MP for Gorakhpur and represented the constituency four times. After Avaidyanath, Mahant Digvijay Nath contested Lok Sabha polls in 1967 as Hindu Mahasabha candidate from Gorakhpur and won.

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He then chose Adityanath as his successor, who has also represented Lok Sabha constituency for five consecutive terms since 1998.

Followers of the Peeth have spread not only within the country, but also outside, including Nepal. Hundreds of thousands of followers of the Nath sect throng the temple during the month of ‘Khichri Mela’ which is held every year in January. According to temple officials, the royal family of Nepal used to send specially prepared ‘khichri’ (a mixture of rice and grains) every year to be offered there. The Mutt also runs several educational institutions and a hospital in the city of Gorakhpur.

The temple’s leadership rejects claims that the Peeths had anything to do with politics and say its religious leaders only contested the elections to “enhance” and “protect” the interests of Hinduism. “People have faith in the Peeth and they see it as a protector of Hinduism…as a center of spiritual knowledge…their support is not politically motivated,” a temple official remarked preferring anonymity.

Mutt’s influence could be gauged by the fact that Adityanath had his protege Radha Mohan Das Agarwal competing against official BJP candidate Shiv Pratap Shukla in the 2002 assembly polls. ticket to Agarwal. Adityanath, however, got him elected.

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There was a clear message that no one, not even the BJP, could challenge Adityanath on their own turf. On other occasions too, Adityanath had opposed official BJP candidates and even campaigned against many of them, including in Deoria, Gorakhpur, Basti, Kushinagar and other neighboring districts of Poorvanchal region. He also created Hindu Yuva Vahini, a group that did not shy away from using threats and intimidation to implement his hardcore Hindutva agenda and help him expand his political influence.

“It was the Hindu Yuva Vahini, who helped Adityanath reach the position he is in now,” says Sunil Singh, who was one of the founders of Vahini but later fell out with Adityanath and joined the SP. Singh, now a bitter critic of Adityanath, adds that the Peeth wield tremendous influence over the people of the region and it is this influence that helps him win the polls.

Political influence

“The Gorakshnath Peeth of course has immense political clout in the region…it’s been like that since the days of Mahant Digvijay Nath and it still is,” says Ashok Mishra, a social worker and resident of Deoria , barely 45 km from Gorakhpur. ”Even the staunch critics of Adityanath refrain from mentioning the temple of Gorakhnath, fearing the backlash of the Hindus. Many opposition leaders have also visited the temple in the past,” Mishra said. DH. Senior Congress Leader and Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel paid his respects at Gorakhnath Temple a few days ago.

Read also | In Ayodhya and elsewhere in UP, desertion in the Dalit-OBC support of the BJP

Some, however, say that the Peeth leaned towards the Thakur community and were rooted in “anti-Brahmanism”. The allegation gained traction during Adityanath’s tenure and many including BJP leaders alleged that Brahmins were persecuted under the current dispensation. Opponents of Adityanath have made it an issue in ongoing assembly polls in the state.

The perceived electoral invincibility of the Peeths had, however, been cast into doubt after the BJP lost the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypoll to the SP following Adityanath’s appointment as UP CM in 2018. The SP then had PASB support. But then, in 2019, BJP ripped the seat back.

It remains to be seen whether the political influence of the Peeths will succeed in ensuring victory for the BJP nominees in the region and the smooth running of Adityanath, which itself is now contesting the seat of Gorakhpur Sadar.

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