There is a steady stream of people seeking to meet Dwarka Tiwari, secretary of the Gorakhnath Math, as he holds court in a room in the temple premises. Over a dozen young men with saffron scarves slung around their neck are with him. A portrait of Hindutva icon Savarkar hangs on the wall facing him. It’s a room that exudes power, symbolised by an empty desk belonging to chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Tiwari’s phone rings intermittently. He picks it up and listens patiently. When he is done, he turns to the men and women—supplicants all—who are ushered in every now and then. Tiwari has been managing the temple’s affairs, but with the assembly elections on, he has also been designated as the in-charge of the poll campaign.
The interplay between politics and religion is hard to miss in Gorakhpur—Uttar Pradesh’s other temple town, 137 km away from Ayodhya—which derives its name from saint Gorakhnath, who founded the temple. During the ongoing seven-phase polls, Gorakhnath Math, of which Yogi is the chief Mahant (priest), has become a hive of political activity. BJP workers, including members of Yogi’s right-wing organisation Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), have been working apace here, moving around with election materials: banners, posters, standees. “We are doing the groundwork for Maharaj ji’s record win,” says HYV state general secretary P.K. Mall, referring to the CM in the term he is addressed here.