Lucknow: As Uttar Pradesh moves from the Lok Sabha elections to the upcoming bypolls and the 2022 assembly elections, the state’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, long seen as the poster boy of Hindutva, appears to be undergoing an image makeover.
The BJP government in the state wants to rebrand Adityanath, often associated with the coarsest version of the BJP’s communal politics, as the man bringing development to the state, sources in the party said.
To help with the change, the Adityanath government has hired a Delhi-based public relations agency, which has worked with governments in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, said a government source in Lucknow. The agency is attached to the government’s information department for now.
“While Hindutva agenda will not be completely foregone, the focus will be on the development work done by him and his government,” said a party source. “It will be 80 per cent development and 20 per cent Hindutva in the run-up to the next elections.”
The BJP spokesman in Lucknow, Chandra Mohan, said the Yogi government’s flagship development projects will be showcased ahead of the bypolls and assembly elections, in addition to how the government has fulfilled promises on issues such as law and order and education.
When asked about Yogi brand building, he said that the campaign narrative will be decided by the party later and said it is too early to say whether the campaign will be like the Modi-centric Lok Sabha pitch.
Lok Sabha elections force rethink
The change in approach, according to other party sources, is because there is a belief in the BJP that the Lok Sabha polls were won on the Modi factor and the successful implementation of central schemes — toilets, electricity, LPG supply and housing.
This Modi factor, they say, might not help script another victory in the state elections.
“For instance, the stray cattle menace had made farmers in many parts of the state guard their fields round the clock. This, and the delay in clearing sugarcane dues have been issues for farmers in UP,” said another BJP leader on the condition of anonymity.
“In 2019, however, they did not become an election issue. The Modi factor and central schemes might have swept through these concerns but in the state elections, these issues might influence voting.”
The leader added that the government plans to showcase big projects, including the Jewar Greenfield Airport in Gautam Budh Nagar district, tourism projects centred around the Ram circuit and the Purvanchal Expressway slated to be completed next year.
“What is needed for the state assembly elections are projects and schemes, which have the Yogi stamp on them,” the source quoted above said. “One needs to move beyond implementing Modi’s schemes to showcasing Yogi’s name and work. This is the strategy that will come into play now.”
A revived blog, a 100-day drive
The attempts to rebuild brand Yogi coincides with a recent revival of Adityanath’s personal blog or his own version of “mann ki baat”. After a gap of five years, Adityanath took to blogging Monday and shared his views on the Lok Sabha electoral mandate, praising the prime minister for laying the “foundation of a caste-free India”.
Moreover, a draft plan, which includes a 100-day drive centred on the CM, is currently awaiting final approval, the party source quoted above said.
The chief minister has been buoyed by the BJP’s stunning show in Uttar Pradesh, where it won 62 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state and increased its vote share by 8 per cent. Adityanath also finds himself on firmer footing as his bastion of Gorakhpur was reclaimed by his party after it lost in a by-poll last year.
Not entirely caste free
While Adityanath’s latest blog called for a caste-free India and the BJP criticised the SP-BSP-RLD alliance as being casteist, the Uttar Pradesh government appears to be leaving no stone unturned to tap into caste vote banks.
For this, the draft plan calls for focused work among OBC communities and Dalits. “Influencers in these communities need to be identified, especially those from sports, businesses and academics,” reads the plan. “Tool kits for employment and skill development among OBCs and Dalits are needed.”