India's most populous, politically and socially most critical Hindi heartland state of India, Uttar Pradesh will now have a serving mahant of Gorakhnath temple, Yogi Adityanath as its chief minister. The BJP leadership's decision has left the nation shocked and several BJP supporters are fumbling for right words, to say the least.
With a saffron robe-clad mahant at the helm in Uttar Pradesh, the fear is the fine line between state and religion, so vital for a secular state, could just be blurred. This also means that BJP's big catch-phrase Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, which it adopted ahead of 2014 parliamentary election and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as rest of his party colleagues would so proudly repeat on all possible forums will be reduced to a cruel joke.
This would inadvertently give a huge opportunity to the rival opposition parties, which were lately down in dumps to regroup against Modi and the BJP. This opens a possibility of revival of yet another round of secular-communal debate, in a much bigger way than the nation had seen so far.
After all, mahant is known for only one thing that he preaches and practices, strident Hindutva. He had so far been operating from Gorakhnath temple, which he presides in Gorakhpur and his only organisational ability, proven so far, was in leading his own Hindu Yuva Vahini. Official website of Hindu Yuva Vahini profoundly claims Adityanath as its chief patron. Under the column of "sadyantra" (conspiracy), it has several write ups “Akhand Bharat, Phir Akhand Hoga Bharat, minority appeasement and its consequences, Islam ka safar – jihad se love jihad tak and has videos on atrocities on Hindus, love jihad, conversions by Christian and such other related themes.
It was quite ironic to see that Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, central party observer for BJP legislature party meetings tell the media and to the nation that the mahant’s nomination as Uttar Pradesh chief minister was to fulfill singular agenda "development, development and development". His words couldn’t sound more hollow to a vast mass of people in Uttar Pradesh and way beyond. However, Naidu didn’t take any questions.
Adityanath’s offensive quotable quotes are not difficult to find and sure to be replayed routinely by BJP opponents, critics, and liberals in time to come. For once they wouldn’t be wrong.
By naming him to lead the state for next five years Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have conveyed to the world that their interpretation of a most thumping mandate is completely different from what the common men and women in Uttar Pradesh and outside perceived. Modi-Shah duo and RSS which may have called the shots in Yogi's dream-come-true elevation perhaps interpreted this mandate as a Hindu consolidation verdict in a Hindu versus Muslim electoral battle.
Since the time Modi was chosen as the BJP prime ministerial candidate in July 2013 and the clear majority mandate which he got in May 2014, he had made development as his agenda and called himself as pradhan sewak. Modi's persona surely has a Hindutva tinge but people overwhelmingly voted for development, to see a better tomorrow for ordinary Indian citizens, India and Indian states.
In the last two and half years as prime minister and prior to that as chief minister of Gujarat for 12 years, Modi was seen as a strong decisive development oriented leader. His selection of Adityanath as chief minister of a communally sensitive state has, for once, created doubt in the minds of his supporters that Modi can’t always withstand pressure from RSS and Sangh Parivar. Their agenda can weigh over his development agenda, as also the person who could lead that agenda. Till this morning it was believed that Union Communications Minister and an IIT-BHU alumnus Manoj Sinha was his choice number one. But then things changed.
The verdict given by people in Uttar Pradesh March 2017 was no different. Modi has successfully aligned governance at Centre and state under his command to develop the state at a speed that was not seen so far, for job creation, for farmers welfare, for hope and aspiration.
Instead of all that, on Saturday when the whole nation was glued to TV sets, people in Uttar Pradesh got a steep forced dose of rabid Hindutva.
No one is sure if BJP had gone to Uttar Pradesh elections with a slogan Desh me Modi, Pradesh me Yogi (as Mahant Adityanath is called) what the results could have been. It can, however, be said with certain surety that the results would have been different then what came out of EVM machines on 11 March. Last time when Adityanath had shot to fame was in September 2014 when he led the BJP campaign in the assembly by-polls with the controversial "love jihad" as the central talking point. The result BJP could win only three out of 11 seats for which by-elections were held. Interestingly elections in all these constituencies were held because BJP MLAs had become MPs.
The other important aspect is that there are two deputies for Adityanath that too when the mandate is so big for BJP. That could have been done to balance out the caste combination — Adityanath is a Rajput and his two deputies (deputy chief ministers) Keshav Prasad Maurya is from most backward caste and Dinesh Sharma is a Brahmin. Maurya is from Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Sharma too has a strong RSS rooting. Adityanath's mentor and father figure mahant Avaidyanath had a Hindu Mahasabha lineage before he joined the BJP. It was interesting to see that Union Minister Kalraj Mishra (senior most Brahmin leader) was specially invited to the legislature party meeting to "bless" the chief minister designate and his deputies.
It must have been one of the rare occasions when a leader named as chief minister and a deputy chief minister had their supporters protesting at party headquarters and make the party leadership yield to their demands.
Just a day ahead of Holi on 11 March, it was said that Modi-Shah duo had turned the festival of colours into saffron but now it seems they have painted the state saffron.
Published Date: Mar 18, 2017 09:53 pm | Updated Date: Mar 19, 2017 09:03 pm