The BJP has deeply disappointed the moderates among its followers by declaring its Hindutva mascot Yogi Adityanath as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. On the face of it, this runs contrary to the spirit of the party’s slogan on which it fought the recent Assembly elections ‘Sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas.’ It reflects an attitude of indifference or insensitivity towards the minorities. It points to an appeasement of the Hindu hardliners which could prove dangerous for the country. There were murmurs during the elections that BJP was resorting to polarization to meet its ends but many had discounted that assessment. Now, with Yogi Adityanath at the helm in the country’s most populous state, many would think that that fear has proved to be right. The yogi might well shed his radicalism once he is exposed to power, but the battle of perception would go against the party.
Yogi Adityanath was elected to the Lok Sabha for the fifth time in a row in 2014 and his constituency of Gorakhpur has had no record of communal riots, but the general feeling is that there is a deep sense of fear among the minorities as a result of his antipathy towards them and his one-sided espousal of the Hindu cause. That is hardly presages a conducive environment. The yogi’s speeches are known to be incendiary and provocative. There is, however, also the hard reality that the appeasement of Muslims by the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP which looked at them as a useful vote bank has caused a backlash against them by a section of people which people like Yogi Adityanath exploit. All said and done, this is a testing time for BJP and for the yogi. If despite his reputation Yogi Adityanath provides the state a clean administration with streamlined law and order and together with his two deputy chief ministers Keshav Maurya and Dinesh Sharma ensures development and jobs for the people, he could well erase the negative impression that the intelligentsia in particular holds of him.