NEW DELHI/BENGALURU: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a star campaigner for the BJP till now, seems to have been sidelined for the elections in Karnataka. The Unnao rape that continues to make headlines, and the anger of the Dalits against his “upper caste” bias seems to have led to second thoughts within the BJP about his viability insofar as the forthcoming state Assembly polls are concerned.

Adityanath who was perhaps the only BJP CM being sent to actively campaign for the party in states after he came to power---with his foray into Kerala of course creating more controversy than support---is certainly not in demand in Karnataka where the party is struggling to counter the Kathua and Unnao rape allegations central to the Opposition campaign. Adityanath is alleged to be soft towards BJP legislator and rape accused Kuldip Singh Sengar, and while arrests have been made these were too late to quell the perception. Besides the family continues to live in terror and remains fearful of its safety, as the victim and her mother have told reporters and delegations.

Adityanath who does not command the same clout in the party after his resounding defeat in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur byelections is also building an anti-Dalit reputation, central to which is his encounter raj and the crack down on Dalit activists. Despite any number of demonstrations and protests Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar continues in jail. And reports that two more Dalit leaders will be arrested soon are making the rounds in Dalit circles in UP. The vandalisation of Ambedkar’s statues, as well as threats to Dalits in villages, have become part of the Adityanath narrative in UP that is not working well either for him or the BJP.

Scheduled castes form a large percentage of Karnataka’s voter and the mahabandh, with the attack on the Dalits, in the north Indian BJP ruled states has had an impact on Karnataka. So much so that it emboldened Karnataka Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao to actually call on the people---at a candlelight march in Bengaluru in solidarity with the Kathua and Unnao families---to beat Adityanath with slippers if he dared visit the state.

The BJP protested angrily, and Rao retracted somewhat saying he had not said ‘hit’ but only to ‘show’ slippers to the UP CM.Rao had said, “This man from Uttar Pradesh who comes to Karnataka to deliver lectures is not a yogi. He is a hypocrite, a liar and a thug. He should not be allowed to enter Karnataka..."

"... In case Yogi Adityanath No, there is no need to call him Yogi. He is Dhongi Adiyanath. If he comes to Karnataka, he should be beaten up with slippers and sent back. If you (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) have little self-esteem and if you have respect for women, sack the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. Unseat him. What you are doing now is a heinous crime (by retaining him),” he had added.

Adityanath, aware of the Dalit anger, is now trying to turn the tide by organising chaupals in UP. The first such is being held today at Pratapgarh at the house of a Dalit, Dayaram Saroj. This reach out will continue through UP, with the next scheduled for Amroha where he will have lunch with a Dalit pradhan. The BJP has felt the heat of Dalit anger after the mahabandh, and is now worried about its impact on not just the forthcoming Assembly elections but the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

Given the hostility to Adityanath on both counts, Unnao where he was seen to be shielding the rape accused legislator and the Dalit issue, there is hesitation now to bring him to Karnataka with the fanfare that accompanied him on similar sojourns to other election bound states in the recent past.