Hindutva in the mainstream? Reactions to Yogi Adityanath's appointment as UP Chief Minister

Last Updated: Tue, Mar 21, 2017 10:41 hrs
Reactions to Yogi Adityanath's appointment as Chief Minister

Five time Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur and firebrand hindutva leader who is known to mince no words about his ideology, Yogi Adityanath, has been sworn in as 32nd Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. The move has evoked strong reactions given his track record of hate speeches and is seen as a clear message by the BJP about its core ideology.

According to this report in The Times of India, Adityanath’s choice for the Chief Minister’s post was in consideration even before the elections. Several leaders quoted in the article said that between him and Rajnath Singh, the current Home Minister, the party’s surveys showed that there was very little difference in populatrity. Singh was not in favour of getting back to UP politics, leaving Yogi to be the BJP’s sole choice. One of the main reasons for this is his popularity across castes.

The upper caste is with him and his followers are largely backward castes. In that sense Adityanath, unlike Rajnath Singh or Manoj Sinha or even Keshav Prasad Maurya, has appeal cutting across caste," this leader said. "And many Muslims attend his 9 am to 11 am panchayats in Gorakhpur," he added.

Contrary to popular belief that this was the result of pressure by the RSS, leaders said that the RSS had not even expected that BJP would win in the state. The pick was therefore a result of the electoral math as well the good personal relationship that Yogi Adityanath had with Modi.

Many also perceive that Adityanath is a tough leader who will see the party through to the 2019 elections if he is successful in delivering the development agenda while retaining the core base of the party. R.Jagganath in Swarajya magazine

as a Hindutva icon, Adityanath has the advantage of having his right flanks covered. He does not have to look over his shoulder to see whether his decisions have the approval of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the BJP cadre. He can pursue a development agenda since his Hindutva image insulates him from attacks from the religious and cultural right. Just as Modi’s 2002 Hindutva image made it easy for him to reimagine himself as a development icon, Adityanath will have a similar advantage.

One of the factors that may work against him is his lack of experience. As a devout hindu and a sanyasi, he has a clean image and has been elected to the assembly from Gorakhpur several times and also heads the Goraknath temple. However, governance of a large state like UP is a different ball game. J.P Shukla opines in this piece in The News Laundry that the task ahead may require a tough balancing act.

One clear disadvantage for Adityanath is his lack of experience as an administrator. His two deputies, Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma, are also freshers like him. Providing good governance over the next two years is thus a big challenge.To his credit, Adityanath as a sanyasin enjoys the reputation of not being involved in or tolerant of corruption. By including a Muslim face, Mohsin Raza, in his ministry at the last moment, perhaps Yogi has indicated that he is ready to reconcile to modifying his hardliner image.

Attempts at diverting from the hard line image are already underway. One of the first directives from the new Chief Minister to his cabinet was to release a statement of their assets within a fortnight. During his press conference as well, the focus was on corruption and development.

Whatever the reasons of his pick maybe, most observers feel that one thing is clear. The massive electoral victory emboldened the BJP to bring their hindutva agenda to the forefront. Akshaya Mishra writes in The First Post -

The choice of chief ministers in other states such as Haryana was a bit defensive. The chosen ones had the Sangh Parivar grooming alright but they were not combative anti-secularist as Yogi is. He is not at all ambiguous about his opinion of Muslims and nationalism and he is unabashed in his assertiveness. The BJP choosing him as the helmsman of the biggest state in the country cannot be without a purpose.

And it is precisely this, Adityanath’s hardline hindutva image, which makes many people nervous. In the past he has been pulled up inflammatory speeches, particularly against muslims. In several such instances, even the BJP was forced to denounce his statements. The Financial Express has a compilation of speeches here.

There have been 450 riots cases in West UP in two-and-a-half years of Samajwadi Party rule because the population of a particular community is rising manifold. He had said that in places where there are 10-20% minority population, stray communal incidents take place. Where there are 20-35% of them, serious communal riots take place and where they are more than 35%, there is no place for non-Muslims.

Political parties, including the Congress and Samajwadi Party, which suffered a huge defeat in the state, have said that Adityanath was a fringe MP who has come into the mainstream. Priyanka Chaturvedi, the party’s spokesperson, said that the decision to appoint two deputy Chief Ministers is indicative of BJP’s cautious approach and an attempt to keep a check on him.

India Today reported that this may well be true with the centre designating IAS officer Nipendra Misra who is principal secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office to serve as a liason.

Nripendra Misra and PMO are expected to be in direct touch with UP government. Misra is likely to guide the Yogi government in day-to-day affairs of the state government.

The Communist Party of India Marxist issued a statement denouncing the appointment, calling it a mockery of the Prime Minister’s development agenda.

In the face of this situation, the CPM called upon all democratic and secular forces in UP to unitedly work to ensure the safeguarding of communal amity and the protection of the rights of all sections of people in accordance with the constitutional guarantees.

No doubt as there will be a close watch on UP politics in the months and years to come given this sea change in leadership.

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