Forget secular softies, even commentators known for their pro-Hindutva inclination appear nonplussed at the choice of Yogi Adityanath for the top job in Uttar Pradesh. No one finds his abrasive ways sitting well with their delicate notion of a leader. For the former he represents all that is wrong with the rabid Right and for the latter he is too Right even for a Right-winger. The consensus: he didn’t deserve to be chief minister. It’s amusing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the same fears in the secular fraternity and among the soft Right when he began his march from Gujarat to Delhi before the general election of 2014. There were too many questions around him: Doesn't he represent hardline Hindutva? Hasn’t he made his disdain for secularism too obvious in Gujarat? Isn’t he a divisive figure? With him around will India remain the same? Nearly three years down the line, the questions have died out. There is still suspicion about his moves in certain quarters but he has managed to win popular trust to make any suspicion redundant. He has been careful to keep separate his language as prime minister of the country and his language as the star campaigner of his party and its ideology. It has worked.
Why cannot Yogi Adityanath go the same way? His past record does not inspire confidence, but it's possible we are pre-judging the Yogi. With the kind of mandate it enjoys in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP does not exactly require a Hinduaisation of the society at this point. There’s already a Hindu consolidation behind it and by harping on it more it might damage its cause more than help it. The Muslims have already been rendered irrelevant in the electoral scheme of things. It won't help the BJP anymore if it tries harder to alienate them further. The party’s top leadership, as well as Yogi Adityanath, would not be unaware of this reality.
Moreover, if the government under him focuses too much on communal matters, it might end up losing support of the large pool of voters who don’t think along communal lines and believed in the development message of the BJP. Thus to anticipate that things could go any worse under Adityanath is ill-founded. The party could have tried to send a message to its core ideological constituency through the selection of the Yogi but that’s all to it.
With their criticism of Yogi Adityanath, the believers of the ideological Right appear to be getting into the same elitist trap as their Left counterparts. His choice has been sanctified a massive popular mandate for the BJP. The Yogi himself has been a parliamentarian for five times. The fact that he was one of the star campaigners of the party is a testimony to his acceptability among people. To brand him as a misfit for the job thus reeks of arrogance. Even Modi was branded a misfit by many of his critics, with the party and outside of it.
His track record as a public figure may not be too attractive, but the total rejection of him is a bit misplaced. The party’s election campaign in Uttar Pradesh focussed as much on polarization as on development and other community-neutral issues. It sought reverse consolidation of Hindu votes. Now, why must a party which has strong Hindu nationalistic moorings play soft after winning elections? It is possible the soft right sees a threat for itself from the extreme Right. That is the reason it is uncomfortable with the rise of Yogi Adityanath. It is the same hypocrisy of the elite of the Left and Left of centre.
The BJP has made it clear in this case that it would no more be apologetic about its beliefs and core principles. It has the right to interpret the big mandate as popular support for both. It does not really matter how the moderate Right views it.
The latter must back off from targeting Yogi Adityanath. He can prove everyone wrong, the way Narendra Modi did.
Updated Date: Mar 20, 2017 11:12 AM