New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will continue to remain the Chief Minister and the March 2022 state Assembly elections will be contested under his leadership, senior party leaders told The Sunday Guardian, while dismissing speculation that he was facing hurdles from a section of central leaders as “baseless rumours”.

Two BJP leaders, including one national vice president, one former Union Minister who is directly involved in overseeing the party’s affairs in the state, an RSS functionary who is active in the region, and a Lucknow-based close confidant of the CM, separately confirmed to The Sunday Guardian that there was no move to replace Adityanath and install someone else.

“The only political discussion that is happening in the state right now is regarding the Cabinet expansion. You can take it from me that the maximum political development that will take place in Lucknow from today till the election results will be a Cabinet expansion, nothing else. If that happens, 5-6 new members will be inducted, including A.K. Sharma,” the party’s national vice president said.

Both BJP leaders, who spoke to The Sunday Guardian, stated that two recent developments—the three-day visit by BJP national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh to Lucknow, which came days after the four-day visit by RSS sar-karyavah (general secretary) Dattatreya Hosabale to Lucknow—had led to speculation that Adityanath was facing “problems”.

According to the RSS leader, Yogi’s political capital has two very formidable weapons: his image of being an extremely honest politician and his fixation with a perfect law and order situation. “These two things affect the common people directly. His focus on ensuring that criminals are eliminated from the state has earned a lot of appreciation from the voters as they remember how criminal elements used to have a free run pre-2017. Same is regarding corruption; people know that he does not take a single penny and this policy percolates down to the IAS officers and other government officials. He is the most popular leader that we have in the party after the Prime Minister, which is something that is acknowledged by every leader, big or small,” the functionary said.

“Surely there were issues, like anger among some party MLAs for different reasons. Local RSS functionaries, too, had complaints that their genuine requests were ignored by bureaucrats, etc. These are normal issues  that every CM, irrespective of party affiliation, faces. Since the elections in the state are fewer than nine months away, the RSS and the BJP leadership have started increasing their activity in the state as the results of UP are extremely crucial for the BJP at a national level too. You will see many more such visits by national leaders in the coming days, but that does not mean that these visits are being taken in wake of any ‘turmoil’ within the party,” the former Union Minister said.

He also said that there was zero per cent truth in the “news” that Adityanath and Uttar Pradesh BJP in-charge Radha Mohan Singh were not speaking to each other. “Not many are aware that the two have known each other closely for over 20 years from the time when Yogi became MP for the first time in 1998. They are ardent followers of Mahant Avaidyanath. In fact, they speak to each other at least thrice daily in view of the 2022 elections,” he said.

Commenting on Uttar Pradesh’s government’s handling of Covid-19 fallout which, according to many political observers, was one of the primary reasons behind the recent political developments, a Lucknow-based confidant of the CM said no government, either Central or the state, can claim that they were able to completely handle the second surge.

“The population of UP is known to everyone and due to that we faced limitations when it came to medical supplies and hospital beds. I am not going to deny that people faced problems, but you need to look at the overall picture. We have ensured maximum testing in the country, the figure for the same is more than 5 crore now, with at least 3 lakh tests every day. When people are comparing our medical infrastructure, they need to compare pre- Covid times and post-Covid times. We have ensured ventilator beds in every district now. There is a whole set of data on this which will prove the amount of effort that the state government has put in to augment our medical infrastructure in the last one-and-a-half-years,” he said.