May 28, 2016

India: RSS considering Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath who represents hardline hindutva as the party’s chief ministerial face.

The Quint - 27 May 2016

Some in RSS Pushing Yogi Adityanath as BJP’s UP CM Candidate
by Rajeev Sharma

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the first steps towards firming up the BJP’s electoral campaign in Uttar Pradesh where elections are nine months away, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is seriously considering Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath as the party’s chief ministerial face.

An influential section within the RSS feels that projecting Adityanath as the BJP’s CM candidate would be a sure-shot passport to success in the upcoming UP assembly polls.

While Adityanath’s candidature would surprise many, especially when the names of HRD Minister Smriti Irani, Varun Gandhi and Keshav Maurya have also cropped up, there is no doubt that the proposed candidature of the Gorakhpur MP, who makes no bones about his communal leanings, is an out-of-the-box idea.

Lessons From Assam

A section of the RSS feels that while Modi should name Irani as the CM candidate others feel that Varun Gandhi or Maurya, an OBC who was recently appointed as the party’s new chief in UP, too should be considered.

Irrespective of which of these leaders is finally projected as CM candidate, there is a groundswell of opinion within the RSS that the BJP must go into the UP elections with a pre-decided CM candidate. There is increasing conviction among BJP-RSS political strategists that definite candidate will be electorally beneficial.

The latest example in support of this strategy is that of Sarabnanda Sonowal who was declared as the BJP’s CM candidate for Assam and he eventually won the election for his party.

There is a sense that if the BJP had redressed the grievances of actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha as the BJP’s CM candidate in Bihar, the narrative there would have been vastly different.

Why Adityanath as CM Probable?

Adityanath, the motormouth BJP MP, is a wildcard entry in the shortlist of probable CM candidates for UP. The reasons for pitching him are not far to seek. He is a highly polarising politician. He has a knack for stirring national controversies with controversial remarks. He had likened Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan to Pakistan-based terror fountainhead Hafiz Saeed, saying that Khan increasingly spoke like Hafiz Saeed.
Adityanath has routinely caused embarrassments to Modi and yet the prime minister has never publicly chided him.
The BJP won 71 of 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP in the general elections two years ago largely by polarising the electorate. The argument goes that if the party seeks to win UP it needs to repeat the same tactics and no one fits the bill better than Adityanath.

Irani’s Hopes Still Alive

There is, however, a flip side in projecting Adityanath as the CM candidate. If the BJP were to eventually bite the bullet it runs the risk of being a divisive, polarising party which would affect its image as well as its carefully crafted strategy of projecting itself as a national alternative to the Congress.

The counter-argument is that even if Adityanath delivers UP to the BJP, it may well be a Pyrrhic victory as the party may lose the war when it comes to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Therefore, the argument continues, why not go in for a safe bet like Irani who may well fire the imagination of women voters and appeal to the larger electorate with her star appeal. Most importantly, Irani’s biggest USP is that she is a staunch Modi loyalist and does not pose any threat to him.

(The writer is an independent journalist and strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha)