A Yogi amongst Netas
Uttar Pradesh, the largest state with biggest population of 22 corer, is in effect the political cauldron of India and needs a leader whose persona is strong and big enough to control its various divisive politics and social disharmony.
The state was fortunate to have Govind Ballabh Pant as its Chief Minister. His persona chiselled during the freedom movement had the strength to guide the state during the difficult years after the Partition. After Delhi, maximum number of refugee settled in the state. He was known all over India and not even Nehru could dictate to him. After him, Yogi Adityanath is the first UP Chief Minister who has come to be known all over the country and is possibly the first to wield personal influence in many parts of the country.
In his own state, he has ruled with iron fist which was needed, given the total collapse of the rule of law. The police itself was defamed and was known to assist criminals. A record number of Dalit girls had been raped and stories were that police stations had become social clubs for a particular caste.
When the arms of law had themselves become criminalized, how could criminals be contained? But Yogi did it. It bespeaks of his inner and moral strength. No one can defy him. Since outside walls are being coloured saffron, the outside wall of the Haj office was painted in saffron and no one raised any hue and cry.
The lesson was learnt when he ordered closure of abattoirs which did not follow Supreme Court guidelines. The owners went on strike and created an artificial scarcity, especially of Tunde Kabab, which are made of buffalo meat. The media went to town and declared that tourists would not come and hospitality industry would suffer terribly. It seemed people went to Lucknow only to eat Tunde Kabab. A communal tinge was given through rumours that Yogi wanted vegetarianism to spread.
Nothing worried him, he kept to his policy that only those abattoirs which followed the rules—for hygiene and proper record of animals slaughtered–could function. This agitation showed that Yogi did not fear for his reputation or credibility when implementing his orders. Such administrators are acutely needed because more hesitate to act out of fear of being called communal.
His choice as Chief Minister by Modi and Shah was followed by stinging criticisms. Generally the thinking was that he has been chosen to spread Hindutva. The Times of India wrote, “In a move that surprised many, Yogi Adityanath was named the next CM of Uttar Pradesh. The 44-year-old five-term MP from Gorakhpur was elected the BJP legislature party leader at a meeting of the newly-elected MLAs.”
As he gained prominence in politics, he took up the mantle of Yogi Adityanath and became identifiable by his shaven head and trademark saffron-coloured robes. But instead of spreading Hindutva, he has become the most influential in acquainting people in different states the successes and achievements of the BJP. He is a great campaigner and influences voters—his persuasive power was evident during the Himachal Pradesh elections. His strong personality is reflected in the manner he rules UP and the way he settles the locations and publicity of his meetings in other states.
In fact, BJP has a secret trump card for Tripura elections: Yogi Adityanath. This is because Tripura has a sizeable population of Bengalis who belong to the Nath community, Adityanath’s sect; BJP feels UP CM will help consolidate Hindu votes. The connect is far-fetched but it is so significant that he is likely to be the biggest star campaigner for the BJP in the state after Prime Minister Narendra Modi when it goes to the polls this month.
Tripura BJP in-charge Sunil Deodhar said the state has a sizeable population of Hindu Bengalis who belong to the Nath community, Yogi Adityanath’s sect, and follow Shaivism. By roping in the UP Chief Minister, the BJP is hoping to woo Bengali Naths in the state. While Naths are classified as an OBC group in the Centre’s list, they are considered a general category in Tripura.
“In Tripura, 35 per cent of the Bengalis belong to the Nath sect. Majority of them have migrated from Bangladesh after facing religious persecution there,” Deodhar told ThePrint. Party leaders believe that after PM Modi — who is likely to campaign in the state next month — Adityanath could be the real crowd-puller in the state.
According to BJP insiders, if the Yogi magic works, it could be a game-changer for the party. The senior leaders believe that Yogi’s campaigning might help consolidate Hindu votes. While the UP Chief Minister seems to be the flavour of the season, the BJP is keeping the pressure up on the Left government. Around 50 ministers from the neighbouring states and Centre have visited the state. A majority of them have spoken about central schemes, which have not reached the people of Tripura yet, party sources said. The BJP will begin its campaign in Tripura immediately with a padyatra and rallies. Nearly 30 MLAs and ministers from Assam and Manipur will take part in these programmes.
In fact, he is a unique phenomenon in Indian politics. For his own principles, he will fight even his own. Adityanath has had a strained relation with the BJP for more than a decade. In December 2006, Adityanath had organised a three-day Virat Hindu Sammelan at Gorakhpur, during the same period when the BJP was holding its National Executive Meet in Lucknow.
The 2007 elections saw a conflict between Adityanath and the BJP leadership–he wanted more than hundred seats in this region to go to candidates selected by him, but the party leadership would not agree.
In March 2010, Adityanath was one of several BJP MPs who started the defiance to the party whip on the Women’s Reservation Bill.
One has to wait and watch how he gets his pet project through. He is a strong advocate of construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, and has said that the hurdles in the path of building a grand Ram temple will be gradually removed and construction will begin soon. How does he manage to build a consensus about the construction is possibly his most daunting challenge.
He could succeed, for he is never afraid of controversies, created by a motivated media and nurtured by the so-called liberal/secular establishment. He is the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a social, cultural and nationalist group of youth who seek to provide a platform to those who are proud of being Hindus. It was alleged to have indulged in violence. In 2015, Yogi Adityanath said that those who oppose yoga can leave India. He was also embroiled in the Love Jihad and Kairana exodus controversies. But all such cases were commonly blown out of the context by his critics. Now all these have been pushed into deep dark gorge and an image has emerged that of a tall and strong Yogi Adityanath.
By Vijay Dutt