Yogi Adityanath is the face of BJP's Hindutva project: Symbolism of the monk in saffron robes

The Sangh's Hindutva project is on. Rejoice if you support it, dream of a Hindu Rashtra. Mourn, if you value a multi-cultural, liberal, secular India.

The BJP's decision to put Ajay Singh alias Yogi Adityanath signals its intent to decisively change the destiny of India. It shows the party is now ready to fulfil the dream its alma mater, the RSS, has cherished as its raison d'être for several decades.

Don't delude itself by saying you were not warned. Don't complain the BJP's decision does not have political legitimacy.

Every step by the BJP during the poll campaign was aimed at consolidating its Hindutva constituency. First, it did not field a single Muslim candidate for the elections. With this bold decision it immediately told the Hindu electorate that it was the only party that did not intend to woo the Muslims and, ergo, the majority should unite behind it.

Yogi Adityanath during his first press conference as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. PTI

Yogi Adityanath during his first press conference as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. PTI

Both the Prime Minister and the BJP president made repeated attempts to polarise the electorate with speeches that had communal undertones. Jumlas like kabristan vs shamshan, Diwali vs Eid,'kuch ka vikas, kuch ka saath' and 'Kasab means Congress, SP and BSP' were thrown into the mix only to make the electorate on communal lines. The IT cell of the party waged a war on the mindspace of voters by continuously bombarding them with images from Kashmir and alleged atrocities against Hindus.

When the election began, everyone thought that the BJP and the SP-Congress alliance are locked in a close fight. Akhilesh Yadav enjoyed high popularity ratings and the alliance arithmetic seemed to add up. But, the BJP's campaign turned it into a Hindu vs Others fight — a strategy that united the non-Yadav OBCs, non-Jatav Dalits and upper castes against rivals seeking the patronage and support of Muslims.

The BJP's triumph in UP is a victory of its Hindutva strategy garnished with the development mantra. At the core, it is a vote for a party that promised to protect the interests of the Hindus. It is the grand finale of the process that had begun several decades ago with the birth of the RSS.

UP voted for becoming the Hindutva lab of the Sangh-BJP — like it had during the Ram Mandir campaign. It has responded to the BJP's eternal cry of 'Jo Hindu hith ki baat karega, wohi desh par raj karega.' It is getting what it asked for.

In a country, that celebrates its culture of renunciation, where a yogi is synonymous with an ascetic, where Buddha and Rama are revered for their sacrifices, the concept of a monk running the government, sitting at the seat of material and political power might sound ironic.

But, the BJP needed the right face for its Hindutva project in India's biggest state. Who has better credentials than the head priest of a temple, a man who faces charges of inciting riots and has a history of making speeches full of hate and poison? To add to his Hindutva appeal, Adityanath wears saffron robes, appealing to the naivete of Indians who believe everything that is saffron is sacred and stands for Hindu.

Truth is, Adityanath is just a symbol of our times. He is just a manifestation of the mindset of the people he represents. All across the world, from the US to the Philippines, from Russia to Turkey, people are seeking the safety of a strong, decisive leader who protects the interest of the majority and penalises the 'other.' Deep inside, people are burning with the desire to assert their religious identity, claiming the country's resources for the majority and pushing the minorities on the margins, or to just ask them to "go to Pakistan."

The RSS had always dreamt of a day when people of India would be ready for its Hindutva project. Its founders had dreamt that its Bhagwa (saffron) flag — borrowed from the Peshwa rulers of Pune — would one day replace the tricolor, which symbolises a multi-cultural, secular India.

In his report on Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, Justice Jeevan Lal Kapoor mentions testimonies of several people who claim the Sangh was planning a military takeover of India after the exit of the British. The report mentions how its leaders were raising a secret militia, gathering ammunition for a power struggle. Back then, in spite of the acrimony and bloodshed of the Partition, India was influenced by the liberal, secular and inclusive ideology of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

The RSS could just wring its hands, watching Indians revert to the 'Ganga-Jamuni' tehzeeb of plurality and guard it zealously for decades. But, something in the Indian voter has now changed dramatically. UP has shown that it may not mind the perceived security of a bhagwa flag.

The man in bhagwa robes is ready to raise it.


Published Date: Mar 20, 2017 11:56 am | Updated Date: Mar 20, 2017 03:24 pm