Saturday, 18 January 2020

Livid Liberals don’t scare The Yogi

Updated: April 5, 2017 12:23 pm

The saffron pasting of Uttar Pradesh, India’s politically most important state, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, as Modi twister uprooted Mayawati, Rahul and Akhilesh, to win the state assembly election with record-breaking number of seats–325 out of 403–had hurt not only his opponents but pained the self-appointed sentinels of secularism, the liberals and ‘intellectuals’ more. And before they could recover from the shock of BJP securing 40 per cent vote share, the ochre-coloured robe-clad Yogi Adityanath, 44, five-time MP and the mahant or head priest of the Gorakhnath Math in Gorakhpur was nominated to be the chief minister.

Liberals, predictably, were incensed at the anointment of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. The sight of the saffron-clad Peethadheeshwar of Baba Gorakhnath Peeth in the top seat in Lucknow turned their incredulous disbelief at BJP’s massive UP mandate into snorts of self-righteous derision. They were aghast at the unbelievable swing in favour of the BJP but then without worrying about the fact that Yogi was the militant persona of Hindutva, the BJP gave him the charge of UP which will be crucial in 2019 in ensuring Modi retaining his prime ministership. There had to be a reason for Modi and Shah to opt for Yogi to be CM, knowing that apart from the liberals, the media, the Muslims, the middle class could also be irked by Yogi’s stewardship of a state like UP, known as political cauldron of India.

The liberals, who have been predicting doom and disintegration of society and county, have in fact misread the present thinking of the people. They have missed the plot entirely. ‘First’, says Nitin Mehta of The Times of India, ‘highfalutin talk of ideological battles is always intoxicating and comforting to one’s own liberals, which is seen as a huge breach in the great wall of Indian secularism. It is intrinsic to its development focus too, with a notion of progress that is intertwined with notions of Hindu-ness. The two are inseparable, not separate apartments to pick and choose from.’

The political message of BJP is clear no appeasement, no apologies, no double meaning. Modi and Shah engineered the collapse of UP’s caste praxis and the Mandal vote has already led to a hard calculation that the party has very little to lose from such a gambit. It bet that those who don’t like it ideologically will never vote BJP anyway and the rest of the voting public won’t care as long as developmental gains keep coming, and as long as Hindutva aims are pursued within the bounds of constitutionality. The massive win for BJP was largely due to all segments voting for it because Modi could make them trust his sab ka saath, sab ka vikas promise.

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The liberals and guardians of secular values must also realise tthe charge that the BJP is a non-secular Hindutva outfit has lost its sting it had in old times. The sheer hypocrisy of the secularists has been fully exposed. BJP’s Hindutva credentials have never been in doubt, rightly points out Nitin Mehta. With its audacious gamble on Adityanath, who was among its most popular state leaders in pre-poll internal surveys, the BJP aims for Hindu consolidation leading up to 2019.

The likes of Rajmohan Gandhi or Pratap Bhanu Mehta remind people that the BJP is Hindu Party and Yogi is promoter of militant Hindutva, but they don’t realise, it is already known to voters. They have accused Modi and Amit Shah of polarisation and of divisive tactics. And to substantiate their charge these usual suspects pointed out that the BJP had not given party ticket to a single Muslim who constitute 20 per cent of the state’s population  of 22 crore. They could not question the free and fair election but when Mayawati raised the bogey of tampered EVMs, they promptly demanded inquiry.

Most liberal-controlled media’s exit polls projected that the BJP will emerge as the single largest party but will be short by 30 to 50 seats to be able to form the government. This prompted Akhilesh to ask Bua (Mayawati) to join forces and form the government and keep the BJP out. An excited Didi contacted Bua and Bhatija to forget all differences and keep Modi out. Sadly for the anti-Modi brigade, when the results came out on March 11, the total seats won by Bua, Bhatija and the Congress Prince was a paltry 73.

It must have been very dark night for guardians of secularism, liberalism and the minority. But Yogi becoming CM outraged their sensibilities to the extent that the liberals in India and abroad turned doomsters. But not much the outraged liberals could do, people had spoken, and there could be no arguments about them giving the BJP a huge mandate. Mehta acknowledged this but warned that ‘In the moment of his political triumph, he (Modi) has chosen to defeat India–more so by choosing Aditynath’.

This is an extremely serious charge. A man can fool once or twice but not always. Mehta acknowledges that ‘the election results (of assembly) gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi an unprecedented mandate’. It is true that most of us, who did not expect the mandate, are hardly in a position to explain what the results represented. All we know is that for a variety of reasons, people reposed their trust in Modi overwhelmingly over his rivals. Well, it is easy to understand the reason for Modi’s massive victory. People, cutting across communal and caste lines, voted for him, for they have been benefitting or feel assured that they will soon benefit from his schemes. Mayawati fought totally on communal and caste lines. Rahul depended on his anti-Modi rhetoric while Akhilesh tried to sell Lucknow-Agra Expressway as if it was manna from heaven for the people.

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Anyway, Mehta charges further, ‘He (Modi) has chosen to interpret his mandate in a way that licenses and empowers the worst tendencies of his party. This is now not a statement just about UP; It is a statement about the prime minister’s inclinations and judgement.’ Now what are the ‘worst tendencies of the BJP’? We know that liberals have branded the BJP anti-Muslim, dogmatic obscurantist and bent on converting India into a Hindu rashtra by thrusting Hindutva on the people. All these apprehensions are being voiced for long. The immediate provocation to condemn Modi is the choice of the ochre-coloured robe-clad Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, which, apart from being the most populated (22 crore) state in the country, is politically very crucial–with 80 MPs from it, it has a voice in national politics.

Mehta substantiates this premise when he says, ‘The elevation of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is an odious and ominous development.’ Incredibly harsh words, but one must agree that the words odious and ominous rhyme very well. Mehta terms choice of Yogi odious because he is widely regarded as ‘the single most divisive, abusive, polarising figure in UP politics. He is a politician who has, for most of his political career, been the mascot of militant Hindu sectarianism’, argues not only Mehta but a few others. Did the hearts of the likes of Mehtas were touched when the divisive tendencies of the Valley majority forced the Pandits flee and become homeless. Incidentally, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre and the J&K governments why the non-Muslims in Kashmir not treated as minority.

One is amazed at the deep-rooted hatred of the liberals alias secularists for Modi, is it ideological, or is it just a façade to hide the disgust that a man of his background ousted and outwitted their mentors of aristocratic background and blue-blooded political pedigree?

Rajmohan Gandhi, Mehta and a few others of their intellectual level seem to be feeling claustrophobic with massive  support for Modi and more nauseating that despite their warnings the Yogi is well-ensconced in UP Chief Minister’s seat and people have not risen against him. A seemingly very concerned Gandhi said on the appointment of Yogi as Chief Minister,  ‘… Mahant Adityanath–a well-known and no doubt very popular voice of Hindu militancy–as the UP Chief Minister. Whom would the choice delight or make proud? Not Gandhi or Patel or Ambedkar. They would be aghast. It is more than likely that Islamic extremists in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf would be pleased. India seems to be imitating us, they would tell themselves, patting their backs.’ Some imagination, this! Can Yogi be compared with Hafeez Mohammad Saeed, or if Saaed does not come up to the level of UP CM, shall we put him in the level of Osama?

Nitin Mehta of The Times of India  rightly says, ‘The intellectual response to the Yogi has ranged from dire predictions of a looming end of the republic, to renewed calls for a hallowed battle in defence of secularism versus Hindutva.’ The liberals are dismayed that their warnings of dire consequences with the Yogi in the CM seat haven’t had any impact. They have failed to realise that secularism as ideology has been irreparably damaged. From the notorious Shah Bano case in the 1980s to the promotion of stereotyped meat-trader-musclemen candidates in 2017, nothing has been more damaging to the cause of secularism than repeated cynical manipulations of the Muslim vote by avowedly secular leaders themselves. From Azam Khan to clerics whose only aim is to protect a more obscurantist view of the Shariah than practised in many Muslim countries – witness the debate on triple talaq – secularism has long been an empty slogan.

Its degeneration from its lofty origins as a principle to defend cultural plurality, to a fig leaf that ended up protecting the backward-looking Muslim religious right, damaged its legitimacy. Little wonder then that invocations to secularism, like critiques of demonetisation before it, may excite well-heeled drawing rooms in Delhi but elicit little enthusiasm where it matters: on the political streets. However, a saffron-clad monk holding political office is not new by itself. Uma Bharti preceded Yogi Adityanath. In the end, he will be judged by what he does in office. But the liberals, worried about their very existence, continue to voice their concern over Yogi. The Indian Express, in its article, said: ‘Yogi is best known for a minority-baiting that militates against any inclusive idea of India.’

In this article, extracts of the Yogi’s hate speeches were given in abundance–he sought votes for his rabble-rousing against “love jihad” and exhortations to convert 100 Muslim women for every Hindu converted by Muslims. It writes: ‘Campaigning for the just-concluded UP assembly elections–in which he held many more public meetings than in earlier polls but was not projected as CM face–the Yogi kept his message simple and bigoted.’ It concludes: ‘The swearing-in of Adityanath as UP Chief Minister is a tragic let-down.’

How and why, this unilateral judgement? How can a judgement be passed on CM Yogi, before he started functioning as Chief Minister?

Mehta and Rajmohan Gandhi too decided that Yogi becoming Chief Minister meant the end of secular values and the society would be messed up by Adityanath’s demons. This again is misreading of the reality on the ground. The Yogi in the seat of power with huge responsibilities has already started emulating Modi, against whom too dark forebodings were uttered by intellectuals when he came to Delhi.

 Questions being asked are: To what extent will the new CM go against his basic divisive instinct? Will the PM’s uplifting vocabulary of governance be judged as mere gloss to the pandering to the base? Going ahead, there are no fig leaves. As Yogi Adityanath begins his job as CM, blessed by the PM and the party, all three face a test like none before, writes Indian Express article.   The critics and doomsayers should have waited and watched CM Yogi’s attitude and approach particularly towards Muslims, and then given him some more time to see what policies and plans he laid out, the administrative infrastructure he set up and above all his approach to bureaucracy and his predecessors.

The Muslims, whose welfare liberals believe is their business, ironically, do not seem as alarmed or scared as their self-anointed protectors. The clerics at most Islamic institutions, the students at the Aligarh Muslim University and in random surveys most young Muslims said that they wanted development and would wait for the implementation of Modi’s sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas. The liberals should also introspect as to how much their ‘secularism in danger’ call is seriously taken by Muslims, who now believe that it is all just a ploy to get their votes. In fact, they have come to realise that they have benefited from Modi’s schemes as much as Hindus in rural electrification, distribution of gas cylinders or Jan Dhan Yojana, for instance.

The warnings, however, continues to be given–that ‘with Yogi as CM, the marginalisation of minorities in UP will now be translated into a programme of their cultural, social and symbolic subordination…Islamic extremists in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf would be pleased (at Yogi being made CM). India seems to be imitating us, they would tell themselves, patting their backs,’ so thinks Rajmohan Gandhi. Such a wild imagination. Why can ’t the critics find out what the Yogi has as chief minister so far done? Possibly they have done it but the computation was not in sync with their criticisms so they do not want to talk about it. We have compiled the steps he has taken, analysed his attitude and approach to minorities, political rivals, bureaucracy and law and order, his stand against corruption and crime against women.

  • All ministers and senior officials to declare their assets within 15 days.
  • All ministers and officials to be in their offices by 9.30 am.
  • He has retained the seniors like the Chief Secretary, DGP etc.
  • For immediate toning up of law and order situation in the state he directed the DGP to do a tele-conferencing with in-charge in each district and ask them to prepare report on how to improve law and order and control crime.
  • Made surprise check of a police station; policemen found lax while on duty suspended. In total over 100 police officers, including an SHO have been suspended or removed.
  • Cleanliness drive in right earnest, with ministers asked to sweep the floor of their office on their first day of taking charge.
  • Pan and gutkas are not allowed inside office buildings
  • Bluntly said in Gorakhpur that with power comes greater responsibility.
  • In every speech he underlines his commitment to sab ka saath, sab ka vikas. He explains further that there will be no discrimination in anything. He has scrupulously avoided talking about Muslim or Hindu.
  • He may have been rabble-rouser, but his parliamentary record is excellent.
  • The five-time Lok Sabha MP has participated in 55 debates since mid-2014 and asked 284 questions. The documented record shows only eight of these debates (14.5%) and two questions (0.7%) were related to Hindutva-related causes. The majority pertained to other issues, on topics ranging from inclusion of Bhojpuri in the Constitution’s Eighth Schedule to encephalitis.

So far, he has asked for closure of illegal slaughterhouses and set-up of anti-Romeo squads to contain crimes against women, Yogi   Adityanath has done nothing so far that BJP did not promise in its manifesto. His publicly-stated course-correction after the negative feedback on harassment of couples by Romeo squads shows tactical awareness and most of his first detailed speech since taking office focussed on BJP’s developmental objectives, including Rs 6,000 crore of farm loan-waivers.

The way he avoided tension between his two deputy CMs, both of whom wanted Home, showed that he knows how to keep his flock together. To borrow from George Bernard Shaw: Yogi is a saint amongst politicians, and a politician amongst saints. He can prove, what Modi wants, that sab ka vikas is possible along with Hindutva. If Yogi Adityanath succeeds in developing UP, it will change the quality of life of a major segment of 22 crore, which will include both the ‘minority’ and ‘majority’. Are the liberals listening!

by Vijay Dutt

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