Do Not Write Off Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh too Soon

Yogi Adityanath with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during electioneering

Adityanath Yogi’s appointment is as an attempt at consolidation of Hindus ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Yogi Adityanath with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during electioneering

Hindutva themes were part of BJP’s successful poll pitch. But he is a tough man, clean and would crackdown on lawlessness in UP. He may be part of Modi’s idea of disruptive politics.

The appointment of saffron hardliner Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh is a defiant assertion of Hindutva nationalist credentials midway through the term of the NDA regime of Narendra Modi.

The contentious decision on Saturday brings Hindutva to the fore overshadowing the development agenda and will raise fears of the party pedalling away from its “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” commitment.

Yogi acknowledged the concern when talking to reporters after his election as the chief of the BJP parliamentary party and said, “It is our duty to take UP to new heights of development. I believe in Modiji’s ideology of ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’.”

But the controversial five-term MP from Gorakhpur is known for his hardline and polarising rhetoric and belongs to the extreme right, or the “fringe” that many warned Modi about and wanted to be shunned.

Much to BJP’s surprise, Yogi was in huge demand across the state during the party’s campaign: a refutation of the charge of his detractors in BJP that his appeal is restricted to “7-8 districts of eastern UP”.

Yogi’s appointment has generated a lot of criticism across India. But it is too early to write him off. He is honest, tough and clean. As a Chief Minister, he may shed his hardline saffron image.

The BJP is confident that the resentment in certain quarters will be more than compensated by the goodwill Yogi, with his tough persona, is expected to generate by setting right the “law and order” situation and by ensuring that bureaucracy cooperates in speeding up delivery: something of crucial importance for party’s aim to retain a majority of the 73 Lok Sabha seats it bagged in 2014.

Yogi has already sent out a tough image: that  he will not tolerate hooliganism in the name of celebrations.

By picking him to govern India’s largest state, Modi and Shah have sent across a clear message that they will be bound by neither the norms of “politics as usual” nor the requirements of political correctness.

Coming after the “surgical strike” and demonetisation, the appointment of Yogi, an unabashed leader of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, can be termed as the third “disruptive move” of the saffron regime, and is part of the populist nationalism BJP seems to be crafting around the theme of Hindutva.

Observers promptly saw it as an attempt at the consolidation of Hindus ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Hindutva themes were part of BJP’s successful poll pitch and in fact, Modi himself was accused of polarising the electorate when he gave the “shamshan versus kabristan” analogy to argue that the SP government discriminates among communities.

Shah was also accused of seeking to communalise the BJP chief Amit Shah had harped on the promise to shut down mechanised abattoirs and to set up anti-Romeo squads: shorthand for a crackdown on “love jihad”.

But it was part of the larger mix which sought to tap into secular concerns over backwardness, unemployment, alleged collapse of law and order and farm distress besides the state’s partisanship towards certain groups.

The selection will, no doubt, go down extremely well with the party’s core base.


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