Yogi Adityanath's Slips Are Showing Already

Published: June 13, 2017 07:00 IST
If Gujarat is the laboratory of RSS's Hindutva, then Uttar Pradesh has served as its turf for Mandal politics. Deciding to contest from Varanasi in the 2014 elections was his first serious step to bring Uttar Pradesh at par with Gujarat after two decades of leading his home state and repeat the same experiment. Uttar Pradesh did not disappoint the BJP; first, it gave 71 seats to the BJP and then, in the assembly elections earlier this year, it turned into a massive victory which brought smiles to the faces of the Hindutva forces and hopes for a longer tenure.

But Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has found the last three months to be a roller coaster ride. He started out in the mould of a future PM and now he is struggling to control the forces that he himself unleashed. Yogi today looks like a pale image of his own self.

UP has been a riddle for the BJP ever since the 90s, the time of the Ram Mandir agitation. Ayodhya brought about a huge revival of the BJP to the national level. It produced a leader like Kalyan Singh who once was considered to be equal in stature to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. Vajpayee used to contest the parliamentary election from Uttar Pradesh but after the Babri Masjid demolition when Narasimha Rao sacked the Kalyan Singh government, the BJP could not attain a majority on its own and was competing with the Congress for the third space in electoral politics as Kanshi Ram and Mulayam Singh Yadav emerged as the primary forces. The assertion of  Dalit and backward caste politics stopped the juggernaut of the Ayodhya movement in UP; the BJP formed governments in Madhya  Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, but not in Uttar Pradesh. Such was the power of Mandal politics.

Kanshi Ram along with Mayawati should be credited for the most original Dalit political experiment after B R Ambedkar in independent India. A party which originated in Punjab in the late 80s galvanized the Dalits of UP i.e. in the most decadent feudal bastion. This meant the upper caste had no option but to live in peace with the Dalits. Similarly, the announcement of the acceptance of the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, giving 27% reservation to other backward castes by V.P. Singh, opened new floodgates of power politics. Numerically-strong OBCs chose Mulayam Singh Yadav as their unquestioned leader. For almost two decades, Mulayam and Kanshiram exiled Hindutva politics into the wilderness. These forces became so powerful that in 2007, Mayawati formed the government on her own and in 2012, the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party gained majority and he became the youngest-ever Chief Minister.

In the absence of these two political currents, the BJP would have been the obvious gainer and that would have given an opportunity to the RSS to showcase its politics of narrow exclusiveness much before Gujarat. But its game plan was foiled by Dalit and OBC politics. In 2014, Modi's biggest challenge was to break this hegemony - which he successfully did. After this, the biggest question hanging in the air was would the BJP be able to repeat the same magic in the assembly elections? Undoubtedly, by 2017, anti-incumbency was very high against Akhilesh Yadav due to his government's failure to tackle the law and order issue; Mayawati was robbed of her old charm because of rampant corruption. The Congress was nowhere in the picture. The paradigm of Indian politics was also changing and development was the new buzz word. The BJP led by Modi played its cards well and ensured a massive mandate in Uttar Pradesh. But the appointment of a Hindutva "warrior" as Chief Minister surprised everyone.

Yogi Adityanath is young - 45 - and has been known for all the wrong reasons with criminal cases naming him for spreading venom against a minority community and taking the law into his hands. Very recently, his government refused permission to prosecute him in one of these cases. The "rightist" media lapped him up as an extension of Modi and forecast the young monk as his successor in the long run. He was given unprecedented TV coverage. He acquired mythical status overnight. Taken in by the media adulation, he immediately started implementing the RSS agenda. Slaughter houses were being shut with immediate effect without giving any opportunity to the Muslim community to find an alternate livelihood. Their cries fell on deaf ears. Anti-Romeo squads started beating up young couples indiscriminately so much so that even brothers and sisters and married couples were not spared. Gau rakshaks became the new law enforcers. Yogi's own Hindutva outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini is the new terror. It openly issues threats. The Bajrang Dal is another law unto itself. The minorities are literally living in fear.

BJP leaders, MLAs and MPs have started roaming the streets as new rowdies. On what often feels like a daily basis, their videos of bravado, of beating up policemen and high officials are featured in the news. Even inconsequential leaders have become so emboldened that they have started attacking police stations and snatching law-breakers from police custody. In Agra, a police sub-inspector was thrashed openly and his bike was torched by a mob which some said was led by a BJP MLA. The SSP of Saharanpur, Love Kumar, saw his residence vandalised. His family was not spared as he cried for help. A young woman IPS officer was seen in tears.

But this is not the end. Caste lines have acquired dangerous proportions. The revival of the fight between the Dalits and the upper caste has opened a new wound. Today, Saharanpur is simmering but the BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal and ex-MLA Rajiv Gumber, the men responsible, remain untouched. Dalits are up in arms. The Bhim Army has emerged as a new political force. Two deaths have already been reported.

Law and order has always been a big issue in UP. But I have never seen the police so helpless. If Akhilesh Yadav could be blamed for lawlessness, then the Yogi government is presiding over a jungle raj. People with known links to the BJP/RSS or Hindutva outfits are roaming without fear and terrorising citizens unmindful of any consequence.

If the RSS harbours any long term ambition of Hindutva consolidation in Uttar Pradesh, it is up for disappointment very soon. UP is not Gujarat. It is far more fragmented on caste and religious lines. It is politically far more sensitive and volatile than many states in India. It does not mind embracing new ideas, but it hates to be taken for granted. Yogi is committing the same mistake that Mayawati and Mulayam/Akhilesh did. They took their vote bank for granted and look where they are today. During the parliamentary and the assembly election, the RSS managed to induct some Dalit castes and the OBCs, but militant Hindutva can boomerang and lawlessness can lead to the middle class deserting the BJP. Yogi could undo the gains the BJP has made. I hope it has not forgotten Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti, the original icons of Hindutva.

(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014.)

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