Bulandshahr violence comes when Adityanath is BJP’s star campaigner. It goes against Modi’s claim of good governance and questions CM’s ability to rule.
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) portrays Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as its gen-next leader. It has taken him outside the confines of state politics and is using him as a star campaigner on a pan-India scale. But Monday’s Bulandshahr violence has raised one more question mark on his leadership and capability to govern his own turf.
The BJP, especially the iteration of it led by Narendra Modi, has always claimed to be a model of ‘good governance’ and a regime that’s in control. But the mob violence in Bulandshahr has raised doubts about the party’s ability to rule this critical state, a fact that is making the BJP’s top leadership anxious.
In Bulandshahr, a mob turned violent Monday following allegations of cow slaughter, and the violence led to the killing of two people, including a police officer.
This comes at a time when the BJP’s portrayal of Adityanath as one of its biggest leaders has hit a peak, given the amount of campaigning he’s done across Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
The violence comes just months before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in which UP will have a huge bearing on the final outcome — of its 80 seats, the BJP and its ally Apna Dal and won 73 seats in 2014.
Adityanath’s image has been taking a beating within the state ever since he took over as CM in March 2017. Defeats in Lok Sabha bypolls, including his home turf Gorakhpur, the tragic deaths of children in a hospital, again in Gorakhpur, and indiscriminate extra-judicial executions are all things that have eroded the CM’s credibility.
“With Bulandshahr, brand Yogi takes a hit again. This is particularly embarrassing when he is being used so extensively by the party as a key face across states,” said a highly-placed source in the BJP who did not wish to be identified.
Despite his recent track record, the decision to take him national indicates that Modi and party chief Amit Shah are keen to groom Adityanath as the BJP’s big next-generation leader. In fact, the party has not used any other chief minister as extensively outside his/her own state.
“In terms of the power equations in the BJP, the Prime Minister and the small coterie around him dominate the party, and one is not sure how important Yogi Adityanath is from that point of view. However, the BJP feels his voice resonates with a certain audience, and is hence trying to use that as much as it can to its advantage,” said Sandeep Shastri, political commentator and national coordinator of the Lokniti network.
“Basically, the BJP wants to use his presence to the extent possible. But Adityanath’s campaign speeches show he has little understanding of the sensitivities of different states and has a one-track concentration — Hindutva. The BJP will soon enough realise he does more harm than good.”
Weakening perception of ‘control’
A few months ago, Adityanath had claimed the law and order situation in UP had improved.
“Not just in the state, but in the entire country, it has been accepted that the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has improved, and an indicator of this is the investment flowing in,” he had said in August, criticising the opposition for disrupting the state assembly over law and order.
Anil Baluni, national head of the BJP’s media department, reiterated that the situation had improved under Adityanath’s administration. “This (Bulandshahr) incident is unfortunate, but the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has definitely improved under this government.”
UP BJP spokesperson Chandra Mohan added: “The CM is keeping a close watch on the situation. In fact, we have managed to prevent it from spreading further. This seems like part of a larger conspiracy.
“Why should it affect the CM’s image? He is very hard working, is someone who constantly tours across the state. In fact, there hasn’t been a day he hasn’t been in UP. Even if he goes to other states to campaign, he comes back the same day.”
However, party sources say the national leadership is worried that Adityanath’s questionable governance record dents PM Modi’s claim that BJP-led regimes provide able administration and are in complete control.
“What happened in Bulandshahr is huge. Inability to control the situation and mob violence in which a police officer gets killed are things that indicate a weak administration. The PM has consistently talked of good governance but if our own governments are unable to reflect that, the credibility of the claims is eroded. The leadership is watching the situation with anxiety,” a source said.
There is a price to pay for the perception that a state is being ruled poorly — the BJP is currently facing an uphill task in the Rajasthan elections because of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s aloof ‘maharani’ image. It would want to ensure damage control in Uttar Pradesh before it’s too late.