Free Press Journal

Will the hardliner change his line?

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Apparently, the bet is on the Yogi having a change of heart. But, going by past record and events, the Yogi is not one to change his beliefs for political gains. Right from his firm belief in the themes of ghar wapsi (homecoming of those Hindus who converted to other religion) and love jehad, to restrictions of all kinds on minorities, Adityanath has challenged even the BJP in the past.

The appointment of Yogi Adityanath, the monk from Gorakhpur, as the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has come as the biggest surprise of the year – so far. As if the huge majority that the Bharatiya Janata Party recorded in the recently-concluded Assembly election in UP was not enough, the decision to give the reign of power in the state to a Hindu hardliner has further deepened the mystery as to how the mind of Prime Minister Narendra Modi actually works.

Despite the strong anti-incumbency in UP fuelled by the prolonged conflict within the ruling Yadav family, there were very few who imagined that the BJP would cross the 200 mark in the 403-member Assembly, and only a handful thought the party would fetch 300 seats. That Modi almost single-handedly demolished the challenge posed by the Samajwadi Party-Congress combine and the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party came as a big surprise to even veteran UP watchers. And now, by choosing Adityanath, Modi has foxed even his supporters.


With its vast size and complexities of caste, religion and backwardness, UP is a difficult state to govern. Even those with good intent and smart ideas have failed to bring about lasting change in the state. Riding high on a wave of popularity, added by the popular support for demonetisation, Modi promised the people of this state that a victory for his party would lead to a turnaround that had eluded them for decades. The people believed him, gave him a massive mandate, and what they have in return is a ruling trio headed by someone who has never cared to hide his dislike for Muslims.

But will such an attitude towards a community that constitutes more than 20 per cent of the state’s population, be helpful in overall development of the state? And in the first place, why choose a hardliner when things appear to be going just right for BJP and Modi?

There is no doubt that Modi has put his own credibility on the line. By placing his trust for UP in the hands of Adityanath, he has given out a message that the Modi effect is powerful enough to tame even a hardliner who has cultivated a larger-than-life image by several decades of Muslim-bashing. The fact that in his first brief comments after taking oath as the Chief Minister, Adityanath said he would ensure overall development of UP, perhaps supports this notion.

Apparently, the bet is on the Yogi having a change of heart. But, going by past record and events, the Yogi is not one to change his beliefs for political gains. Right from his firm belief in the themes of ghar wapsi (homecoming of those Hindus who converted to other religion) and love jehad, to restrictions of all kinds on minorities, Adityanath has challenged even the BJP in the past.

Apparently, Modi has taken this risk for something much greater than mere appeasement of a firebrand leader. It could be that he wants to convince the more conservative elements within the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that he has not strayed from the family path. Or, it could be his own belief that he could persuade even a firebrand leader to change his spots and embrace an all-inclusive path of development. The fact that two moderates in the form of Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma have been made Deputy Chief Ministers – a first for this state – also indicates that it could be attempt to reign in Adityanath and nudge him to stick to the development agenda.

Incidentally, Adityanath is a widely popular figure in eastern UP, especially in districts surrounding Gorakhpur where the Gorakhnath Math is located. Being the mahanth of the Gorakhnath temple, he is not only considered a “saviour of the Hindus” but also a protector of all who live in Gorakhpur.

While everyone, including his fans, expects Adityanath to undergo a major transformation in the days to come, the sense of fear and apprehension among Muslims and many others in the state is palpable. The one common question they are asking each other is: what will happen in UP now? The fear is being expressed quite vocally on social media and elsewhere. Even young people who are working professionals or students, besides elders who are politically committed, have come out openly with the question about their future in the state.

It is expected that the new regime could go for a review of several social welfare schemes to bring about a correction of whatever biases that existed in them. Such a move may not make a big difference in the overall implementation of the schemes, but it could well lead to a confrontation. Similarly, major changes in the deployment of police officers across the state could also lead to a feeling of discrimination among some castes which had been privileged in the previous two regimes of SP and BSP.

At the same time, celebrations by sections of people, provocative slogans, attempts to mock or taunt people of the minority community, objectionable comments or speeches etc will also add to the feeling of insecurity of a section of society. The challenge before the Yogi-Maurya-Sharma trio is clear: To contain such occurrences and maintain peace, so that an agenda of development can be pursued.

Adityanath enjoys a clean reputation and is known to be strict against corruption. He is also not confined to any particular caste group. Contrary to Yogi’s hardliner image, Maurya and Sharma are known to be friendly and soft-spoken. It is likely that a new system of collective decision-making could emerge from this experiment.

From terming the decision to “a big assault of secularism” to “systematic playing of communal card,” opposition parties like the Congress, Left parties, SP and even Trinamool Congress, are already in a confrontationist mode even before Adityanath sits on the Chief Minister’s chair. But, Uttar Pradesh is a large and sensitive state, and both Modi and the BJP would not like the situation to turn hostile in this state prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Now is the time to watch keenly what the Yogi does next.