She was not keen on revealing her identity beyond saying that she is a student at the Banaras Hindu University. But when asked about the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, she had a prompt reply. “I am not very interested in politics so I cannot say much about leaders…I will vote for whoever my family votes for,” the 27-year-old student told Outlook at the Gorakhnath Temple, where she had offered prayers. Outside Gorakhpur railway station, long-time newspaper vendor Amarnath Gupta also didn’t have to think much before answering that women generally follow their family’s lead while deciding to vote, as they don’t want any discord within the house over politics. The two answers might not be representative of what women voters of the state think, but they do provide an insight into the political drama unfolding in India’s most populous and politically crucial state.
It was in Gorakhpur where the BJP pulled out its ace in 2017 when it propped up a saffron-clad monk to head the state after a convincing win in the assembly polls. Five years later, Yogi Adityanath—once the head priest of the temple and the incumbent chief minister—is all set to defend his crown in the face of a spirited challenge by the Samajwadi Party (SP), apart from the Congress and other parties. The Congress, especially, has set the cat among the pigeons by deciding to field 40 per cent women in the seats it is contesting. It might not be enough for the grand old party to see any change in its fortunes, but the gambit by Priyanka Gandhi is seen as a big push for identity politics surrounding women.