The message from the BJP is blunt: It need not be apologetic about its core beliefs. Popular mandate provides the stamp of legitimacy to what it holds dear to its heart. The secular liberals and the ideological fence-sitters can go to hell.
The selection of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh is the boldest political-ideological move of the BJP ever since Narendra Modi assumed power as prime minister. That he is controversial as a political figure is an understatement. That he is as close to the Hindutva hard line as possible needs no overstating either. For the first time, it is clear that the BJP is not being surreptitious about its ideological agenda. If it is branded as a hard core Hindutva party, so be it. No apologies required.
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.
To view it as a strategic move before the 2019 elections may not be correct. The logic that this view revolves around is that some sort of Hindu consolidation has already taken place in the state and someone like Adityanath will take the process forward. But the counter to this logic could be that with the kind of a brute mandate, any other choice would have sufficed. The likes of Rajnath Singh, Manoj Sinha and Keshav Prasad Maurya are identified with the party's ideology and the presence of any of them at the helm would have served the purpose. If there's a Hindu consolidation in favour of the party, it could not have dispersed under them.
Then why Yogi Adityanath? Well, it could be that the party wants to take its Hindutva agenda forward. It is confident that it can accommodate it with its development agenda without a conflict. This could have come from the renewed confidence from the mandate in the state where it mixed Hindu polarisation and issues of development with ease. The results told it that it can take along both. This could be the party's template for all future elections in states across the country.
It is a resounding slap on the politics around secularism. But nobody should shed tears over this. In a way, the political parties who had reduced secularism to appeasement of certain communities have been shown their place. Their politics also reflected some disdain for the majority sentiment, which is not necessarily anti-secular but tired of the hypocrisy and perversion surrounding the idea of secularism as it is put into practice in electoral politics.
Yogi Adityanath could prove to be a disaster or a success, depending on how he approaches the question of secularism. If he is too aggressive in his approach, he might end up alienating a majority of Hindu voters. There's a possibility that his brand of Hindutva might encourage action against liberal Hindus who have voted the BJP on its promise of good governance and development. This would be counterproductive for the party, both in the short and long runs. If he comes across as a sober, purposeful leader, he might win friends among the Muslims too.
Whatever the case, the BJP has made its boldest ideological statement by elevating the six-time MP as chief minister. The way he governs the state will decide whether it is a good move.
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Updated Date: Mar 19, 2017 09:24:37 IST