Yogi Adityanath is new UP CM: BJP leadership's choice will deepen the existing polarisation
In more ways than one, the choice of the Gorakhpur peeth's controversial head priest is a deliberate and strategic ideological decision.
If there were indeed any lingering doubts about the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) political project in the communally-sensitive state of Uttar Pradesh, the installation of hardline, Hindu right-wing demagogue Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister, should put them to rest. In more ways than one, the choice of the Gorakhpur peeth's controversial head priest is a deliberate and strategic ideological decision. In choosing Adityanath as its mukhia in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has rendered its own slogan of inclusive development insignificant.
The selection of a politician who set himself up as a radical face of the ‘Hindu samaj,’ flies in the face of the BJP’s repeated denials of pandering to the majority community, or further deepening the already existing polarisation in Uttar Pradesh. No doubt, at work here is a highly successful strategy of combining developmentalist rhetoric with a politically inflammable agenda.
On one hand, we are constantly subjected to the loud rhetoric of the BJP’s sole commitment to a ‘development for all’ agenda, regardless of class, caste, religion or community. But the appointment of a divisive, communal figure as chief minister of a state considered electorally bountiful and communally precarious, sends an entirely different signal to the people of the country.
For years, Adityanath has actively propagated the politics of Hindutva, making provocative statements that openly target the Muslim community. He took an aggressive lead in the frenzied cow protection campaign that occurred in the state after the Modi government came to power.
In the 2014 general elections, the BJP leaned heavily on him to mobilise the votes of the majority community. A major presence in the recent 2017 assembly polls as well, Adityanath kept up his relentless attacks on Muslims, notwithstanding periodic reprimands from the Election Commission.
A report in The Indian Express (19 March) says: “His vitriol was in full flow in the 2017 elections too, with Adityanath now the BJP’s star campaigner. On 7 February, he addressed his first ever press conference at the BJP state headquarters. There, he had said that the exodus of people from western Uttar Pradesh was an issue in the state and that UP could turn into Kashmir if Samajwadi Party remained in power. Adityanath said he would raise these issues after the elections too.”
His relentless advocacy of anti-minority politics has finally brought him rich political dividends. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who praised the BJP MP as a popular and “jujharu” (hardworking) Parliamentarian, has now rewarded him with an invaluable prize.
Believing the BJP top brass has picked Adityanath for his non-existent administrative expertise or hidden potential in that department, is simply delusional. Behind the rhetoric of development lies the BJP’s (and Sangh Parivar’s) deeper core agenda of cultural nationalism, which they believe, is gathering more momentum in the country. There has been a tactical shift in the trajectory of recent Hindutva campaigns. In place of the earlier advocacy for Ram mandir at Ayodhya, we now see unfolding a fractious campaign around nationalism. Majoritarian nationalism is what defines cultural nationalism.
For the Sangh, Adityanath was always a potent instrument this ideological project in Uttar Pradesh. But the BJP’s unprecedented recent triumph, indicating a consolidation of Hindu votes, has opened up a new space where the party is confident of making aggressive moves; where even a much publicised, Muslim-baiter like Adityanath can be appointed to the top political post with a great deal of fanfare.
It can be further argued that past experience shows how development models can be projected as successful even when they are fundamentally premised on excluding minorities on multiple levels – economic, political, cultural and social. The Gujarat model is a good case in point. Gujarat has also exemplified a particularly dangerous political model. Shepherded by the BJP, it has been structured along the lines of religious polarisation since at least 2002. The promotion of Adityanath as UP Chief Minister signals the BJP’s resolve to replicate such a model in Uttar Pradesh.
Of course, it helps when media organisations, newspapers, and television channels (with a few exceptions) simply regurgitate government rhetoric without investigation or criticism. As the new chief minister of UP gets to work, those in the highest echelons of the Indian media should equally introspect about their callous coverage of the election campaign which reproduced, lock stock and barrel, the BJP’s claim about development without ever scratching the surface of this rhetoric.
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