Yogi Aadityanath, the priest-turned-politician, who has emerged as the BJP’s surprise choice for the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, has taken the oath of office. Nobody expected his name cropping up for the post. People were under the impression that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which to a great extent discarded Hindutva hardline politics and embraced developmental plank, will never make such a decision. Something unexpected, however, happened and the Yogi has become the 32nd CM of the most populous state in the country.
Unlike ‘the monk who sold his Ferrari’ in pursuit of peace, this yogi, if we go by his past record, did not seem to be interested in pursuing peace and has a propensity to stoke controversies. In fact he acquired notoriety for being a loud-mouthed hardliner and even considered as part of BJP’s lunatic fringe. Many political analysts wondered how the saffron clad hardliner, who was considered to be a fringe element, went mainstream.
The BJP, which started its political journey as an advocate of overt Hindutva, slowly toned down its communal rhetoric and started pursuing a kind of covert Hindutva. It slowly but surely excluded minorities from its political fold by not deploying even a single Muslim candidate in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which drew flack from all the progressive forces in the country. Now it even went to the extent of making a hardliner as the Chief Minister.
Putting him in CM’s chair is perhaps the boldest political statement BJP has made in recent times. With Yogi’s appointment as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, which has been under suspended animation for quite some time, may get a new lease of life. If that happens, the communal conundrum, which to a great extent has subsided, will be reignited. The minority politics played by the so-called secular parties is also responsible for the present state of affairs. They, through their appeasement politics, tried to grab Muslim votes en masse. This vote bank politics made Hindus rally behind BJP, completing the vicious circle of religious polarization in the state.
BJP’s strategy appears to be combining developmental politics with soft Hindutva to gain a mass appeal, and occupy the position of being the natural party of government. This strategy, to some extent, is tolerable but the trouble starts when it wades into the waters of hard-line Hindutva to whip up communal frenzy with an eye on reaping electoral dividends. The pursuit of hard line Hindutva will definitely create problems not only for BJP but even for the entire nation. So the monk has to sell off his Saffron Ferrari, a seemingly spiritual ‘material’, and transform himself into a true Yogi in order to make himself acceptable to all sections of society.
Meanwhile the opposition parties are very critical of BJP’s decision to put the Yogi at the helm of affairs and accused it of gearing themselves up for implementing majoritarian ‘Shamshaan’ politics. They, however, should not be unmindful of the fact that through their actions they are also equally guilty of promoting communalism through their minority appeasement politics.
Uttar Pradesh, which has a population equivalent to that of Brazil, is currently facing a myriad of problems including high maternal mortality rates, poor educational standards, high level of unemployment and the resultant migration to other states, and slow agricultural and industrial growth rates. These are all the livelihood issues which deserve high priority. The state, by dint of its sheer magnitude and demographic diversity, is considered to be the crucial state from the perspective of electoral politics. If the Yogi meditates upon only the development, avoiding all the communal distractions, he will be giving a big impetus to Modi’s efforts to win a second term. Though he made the right noises by reiterating Prime Minister Modi’s clarion call ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas’ and asking his folks not to make any controversial remarks, his actions and words, no doubt, will be closely monitored by his political rivals and the media. It remains to be seen to what extent the Yogi and his ministerial colleagues will exercise restraint from making divisive comments and pay attention to governance. Let us all hope that the priest-turned politician will follow his ‘Raj Dharma’ and endear himself to all to put one of the BIMARU states on the growth path.
This article was published in the popular citizen journalism website Meri News.