UP CM Yogi Adityanath with his provocative and polarising speeches — apart from changing Muslim-sounding names — is one of the BJP’s star campaigners.
New Delhi: The BJP appears to be relying on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to reinforce its hardline Hindutva narrative even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi projects himself as a vikas purush or the man for economic development.
The UP chief minister has become the BJP poster boy in election campaigns, turning up in states other than his own and making fiery, polarising speeches.
The latest instalment of his divisive diatribe came Sunday, 25 November, when he addressed a rally at Bhopal in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh.
“The Congress only wants Muslim votes. I just want to tell him that Kamal Nathji can keep Ali, Bajrang Bali will be enough for us (BJP),” he said, responding to the controversy over a video that showed Nath asking Muslim leaders to ensure 90 per cent of the votes from the community for his party.
This, however, isn’t the first time that Adityanath has sought to whip up communal passions.
“Hinduism is a lifeline and a rich tradition that cannot flow in the veins of those who justify killing cows and eating beef,” he had said in Bengaluru on 7 January, in the run-up to the Karnataka elections. During the same poll campaign, he asked voters to choose between Hanuman Jayanti and Tipu Sultan Jayanti.
With an incipient alliance of opposition parties threatening to unsettle the BJP in the crucial Hindi heartland in the Lok Sabha elections, the Adityanath hardline agenda appears to get shriller — from the changing of Muslim-sounding names to the announcement of a Ram statue in Ayodhya, apart from the provocative speeches.
“He is one of our star campaigners,” said a senior BJP leader who did not want to be named. “There are requests galore from state units, where elections are due, to send him for campaigning. When there is such a huge demand, what do we do?”
‘A conscious BJP strategy’
Political analysts say that Adityanath’s very public communal statements are part of the BJP’s well-thought-out poll strategy. “The idea is clear. It’s an attempt to polarise Hindu votes during election time,” says political scientist Sudha Pai.
“Using the Hindutva plank during elections helps deflect attention from other pressing issues such as joblessness,” says professor Badri Narayan of the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad.
“There is no specific data to show how much of it translate into votes but it definitely helps build cohesiveness among voters, especially the Hindu voters.”
Narayan feels that as long as the politics of polarisation succeeds, the BJP will use the UP chief minister to stoke communal sentiments among Hindu voters.
“It will, however, start fading when the social context changes. In Karnataka, Yogi’s fiery speeches did not work,” says Narayan. “Similarly, if BJP loses in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, then the party will have to re-think its strategy. Otherwise, he might become a liability for the party.”
According to political analysts, the BJP, by sticking to polarisation politics, has pushed its opponents, including the Congress, to follow suit. “That’s the most unfortunate part,” says Pai. “Even if it doesn’t have to, the Congress has begun to imbibe the BJP’s politics of polarisation by peddling soft Hindutva.”
As for Adityanath, Pai says the chief minister has to be more restrained. “Earlier, politicians used to cloak it with talk of development. But now, there is no pretence,” she says.
She also called the situation as being paradoxical. “The voters are talking about joblessness and agrarian distress. But the leaders are talking about building Ram temple and stoking Hindu-Muslim animosity.”
No better at home
A review of Adityanath’s speeches since he became chief minister last March shows the common themes of his public addresses are peppered with a generous dose of communal remarks. This is despite the fact that the BJP secured a historic mandate in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections on a development plank.
For instance, on 7 September, at a conference in Lucknow, the chief minister took a dig at his predecessor, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, by comparing him to Aurangzeb.
“There is a character in history who kept his father in jail. This is the reason why no Muslim names his son Aurangzeb,” Adityanath said. “I think something like this has happened with the Samajwadi Party. History repeats itself, and the repetition is taking place.”
On 15 November, he took on former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying “agents from Italy” have facilitated the religious conversion of local tribals in UP when the party was in power.
In recent months, he has talked about building a Ram temple an umpteen number of times in his public discourses.