The rally in Gorakhpur rally will be held on Thursday

Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s next rally in Uttar Pradesh is likely to focus on development and local issues, with Hindutva only in the background.

Several BJP office-bearers of the State said Mr. Modi, in his Gorakhpur rally on Thursday, is likely to raise issues such as the defunct sugarcane mills in the Gorakhpur region, Japanese encephalitis and the neglect of Buddhist monuments in Kushinagar.

Observers believe that by talking of local issues only,the Gujarat Chief Minister is trying to shift the focus from the Ram Mandir issue, which has become politically obsolete in caste-driven U.P.

But, Hindutva will feature prominently in the backdrop, as the stage for the rally will be in the shape of the Gorakhnath temple. Guru Gorakhnath is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva and the temple derives its name from him.

Also, over the course of its rallies in U.P., the BJP has popularised the slogan “Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi,” which is a lift from “Har Har Mahadev,” a slogan used by Lord Shiva devotees. Some believe the parallel with Lord Shiva could be to woo OBCs and Dalits.

But, Badri Narayan Tiwari, author of Fascinating Hindutva: Saffron Politics and Dalit Mobilisation , said the slogan was a direct appeasement of “militant Hindutva” as Lord Shiva represents the image of a warring God.

Har Har Mahadev has been a popular war cry,” Mr. Tiwari pointed out.

He felt that the BJP would not totally abandon the rhetoric of Lord Ram. Both Ram Mandir and local issues will be juxtaposed, he said.

Mr. Modi’s rally will also bring into focus Gorakhpur MP and the head priest of Gorakhnath temple, Yogi Adityanath, who is known for espousing the cause of a strident Hindutva.

Mr. Adityanath has had rifts with the BJP in the past, but this time he has voiced no such reservations. He is personally overseeing the preparations for the rally. “I have no objection if the [Lord Shiva-Modi] slogan is used for Mr. Modi,” he told The Hindu .

U.P. BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai, who coined the slogan during a rally in Jhansi, said: “Just like we look up to Lord Shiva for kalyan, the country today looks at Modiji.”

What inspired the slogan? Mr. Bajpai credits it to chance. “A party worker was casually shouting the slogan. I liked it and adopted it. It quickly became popular among the cadres.”

But, Professor M.P Singh of Banaras Hindu University differs. “Any gain they make in U.P. will be due to the image of Modi as a ‘performer.’ The masses do not connect with such slogans anymore,” he said.