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New Delhi:

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will contest next month’s Assembly election from the Gorakhpur (Urban) seat, the BJP said Saturday afternoon, as it released its first list of candidates.

Polling for the Gorakhpur (Urban) seat, which is the Chief Minister’s stronghold and voted him to the Lok Sabha for five straight terms till 2017, will be on March 3 – the sixth and penultimate phase.

“The decision has been made after much deliberation… the final decision (was taken) by the top leadership of the party,” Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters.

There was speculation earlier that the Chief Minister – who has never stood in an Assembly election before – would contest from one of two temple towns – Ayodhya or Mathura.

This was after the BJP’s core group expressed an interest in fielding Yogi from these seats, particularly after the eastern part of the state has been seen as drifting away from the party.

The BJP faces internal dissidence after 10 of its Uttar Pradesh MLAs, including three ministers, walked out of the Yogi Adityanath government this week.

Several of them, including influential OBC leaders and ex-ministers Dharam Singh Saini and Swami Prasad Maurya, have since joined rival Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, in a move that has blown a big hole in the BJP’s strategy to attract non-Yadav OBC votes for this election.

Fielding Yogi from Ayodhya, the sources said, checks many of the boxes as the ongoing construction of the Ram temple had boosted the seat’s political profile for the ruling party.

It also allows the Chief Minister to capitalise on and further build his brand as Hindutva icon. The temple town falls in the Awadh region, where rivals Samajwadi Party have been traditionally strong.

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