Padmaavat row: Yogi Adityanath stares down Karni Sena; stands out among BJP peers as UP theatres screen movie

The fact that despite clear directions from the Supreme Court, Padmaavat couldn’t be released in four BJP-ruled states reflects the timidity of the ruling class as they surrendered before a bunch of hooligans than honour their constitutional and social responsibility.

 Padmaavat row: Yogi Adityanath stares down Karni Sena; stands out among BJP peers as UP theatres screen movie

File image of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. PTI

Though the official ban was lifted by Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Haryana and such other states after the Supreme Court’s order but even then Karni Sena and other fringe had the last laugh. Their ghastly acts of attacking a school bus in Gurugram, rioting and arson at various malls and cinema halls, issuing open threats of physical harm, goons wearing saffron turban flashing swords while protesting against the movie and tacit support by some BJP governments made exhibitors and cinema halls owners in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Goa so panicky that they chose not to show film. It should be a matter of serious concern for all that hundreds of unemployed hotheads and anti-social elements took the state to ransom and enforced an informal ban in as many as four Indian states.

It is a matter of shame that full majority governments with chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje, Vijay Rupani and Manohar Parrikar capitulated before these hooligans for sake of some votes. The Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana, in any case, is not known for taking law and order and governance issues on priority. A PTI report had quoted Deepak Asher, president of multiplex owners association as saying "we have decided not to play the film in four states—Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Goa—as the local management has told us that the law and order situation is not conducive."

It is not only the BJP but the opposition parties including Congress have refrained from speaking a word on Karni Sena and Padmaavat screening. Rahul Gandhi in his tweet though took on the BJP but didn’t say a word on Padmaavat film maker’s freedom of expression and the violence unleashed by Karni Sena newfound found associates.

Gandhi's one-time political guru and senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh went on endorsing Karni Sena line by saying "films that hurt the sentiments of people of a particular religion or caste and which are not based on historical facts should not be made."

In a situation when most BJP chief ministers and leaders across the political spectrum have either capitulated or quietly or openly sided with the bullying tactic of Rajput Karni Sena, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath who presides over the Gorakhnath peeth as its mahant, wears saintly saffron clothing and is perceived to be a hardline Hindutva mascot stands out with certain conviction.

Incidentally, Yogi is a Rajput by caste and if there was something in the film which was grossly demeaning to the community which he belongs to he would have been cautious or even incensed. Rajputs are key social support base of BJP in the state. But that did not deter Yogi and he remained unfazed to concerns raised by Karni Sena and protests by the fringe.

While the film is being screened throughout the state, barring an incident when some miscreants blocked the DND flyover in Noida, the situation has remained broadly peaceful. The protests have been insignificant and non-violent in nature.

Even when one BJP ruled state after another including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Bihar banned released of Padmaavat, the Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh only asked for deferment of its release till the conclusion of municipal elections in early December.

Yogi did give an audience to Karni Sena chief Lokendra Singh Kalvi when the latter sought an appointment to put forward a plea to ban Padmaavat in the state. However, the chief minister firmly told him that Karni Sena and its associates were free to do peaceful protests but if the situation became untoward the state's law enforcement agencies would come cracking down on them, sources said.

Given Yogi’s track record as a five-time MP, also as chief minister and his public speeches one can safely assume he would be the one standing in the forefront to raise about his voice if distortion of history and cultural heritage is being made. In this case, he is convinced that there is no such distortion of history as is being claimed. Moreover, he is also apparently convinced that a Bollywood masala movie even on a historical theme is different from a documentary claiming to be based on true historical records.

Sources said Yogi is keen to portray the image of Uttar Pradesh as a state where law and order situation is peaceful and the atmosphere is conducive to greater investment in business and industry. The business tycoons who met him after he became chief minister had raised their concern for law and order. Yogi had promised them that he would effectively contain law and order and make Uttar Pradesh as the chosen destination for investment.

Yogi is holding Investment Summit in Lucknow on 21-22 February and has attached his personal prestige with the event. He wants to send a message across that he and his government would not allow a free run to fringe elements and wouldn’t allow anyone to make a dent in the law and order situation. This is what he says in his message to invitees to the summit: "Uttar Pradesh is the growth engine of India, and country’s third-largest economy growing at a fast rate… The investor-friendly policy direction of my Government and the Good Governance initiatives, complementing the inherent strengths of the state, will definitely go a long way in transforming the state into a preferred investment destination."

Other BJP chief ministers should take a cue from Yogi. But what should cause serious concern to the BJP leadership, as also its rank and file that they allowed Padmaavat controversy to flare up to a point where coverage on prestigious ASEAN summit being held in New Delhi got relegated to the background.

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Updated Date: Jan 26, 2018 07:39:29 IST