Adityanath wasn't Modi's choice, claim senior BJP leaders
Party wary that Modi could be losing support among moderate Hindus
Archis Mohan | New Delhi March 20, 2017 Last Updated at 21:05 IST
Possibly because the party is apprehensive that Prime Minister Narendra Modi might lose his support base among the educated middle class, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders on Monday claimed that the PM had no role to play in the choice of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Twenty-four hours after Adityanath was sworn in as the UP chief minister, even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has distanced itself from playing any role in the 44-year-old five-time Lok Sabha member being elected the UP CM by BJP legislators. The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) has not only congratulated the head priest of Gorakhnath temple but hoped that a Ram temple would soon be constructed in Ayodhya.
According to a senior BJP leader, who was sent to Lucknow to assess the mood of the legislators on Saturday, it soon became apparent to him that party legislators didn’t want to accept the central leadership’s nominee, union telecom minister Manoj Sinha.
Earlier, Sinha’s name was finalised by the central leadership after Home Minister Rajnath Singh refused going back to Lucknow. Sinha, according to a source, was even blessed by Singh for his new innings.
When central observer M Venkaiah Naidu, assisted by Bhupender Yadav, reached Lucknow on Saturday the two were in a for a surprise. Most party legislators, particularly those from eastern UP, conveyed to them that they wanted Adityanath as their leader. The Yogi, the leadership estimated, had the support of as many as 190 of the BJP’s 312 legislators.
This was conveyed to the BJP chief in New Delhi. The writing was on the wall for the leadership. “We needed to accept the groundswell of support for the man,” the senior BJP leader said.
A compromise formula was worked out at a meeting attended on Saturday afternoon in Lucknow by Naidu, Adityanath, Yadav, BJP state unit chief Keshav Prasad Maurya and its UP strategist Sunil Bansal.
According to the plan, Adityanath’s name would be announced as the chief minister, and he in turn will ask for two deputy chief ministers. Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma and Maurya, both known to be close to the BJP chief, were to be appointed deputy chief ministers.
In the meeting of the legislators, nine MLAs, starting with senior most members like Suresh Khanna and Satish Mahana, proposed and seconded Adityanath’s name. He in turn asked for two deputy chief ministers.
This is the first occasion in the last three years when Modi, Shah and rest of the central leadership has had little role to play in the choice of a chief minister of a BJP-ruled state.
Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra, Raghubar Das in Jharkhand, Manohar Lal Khattar in Haryana and Trivendra Singh Rawat in Uttarakhand – all were first approved by the central leadership and then chosen by state legislators. Only in Assam did the BJP go into the polls with Sarbananda Sonowal as its chief ministerial face.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Sunday congratulated Yogi Adityanath on becoming chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. VHP’s Pravin Togadia, a known rival of the PM, hoped that its longstanding demand for a Ram temple in Ayodhya will be fulfilled soon.
Meanwhile, the RSS rejected speculation that it had pressured the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to select Adityanath. It claimed that it never influences such decisions. RSS joint general secretary Bhagaiah told reporters in Coimbatore that it was BJP’s political decision.
It is rare for the RSS to clarify news reports. A senior BJP minister underlined how Adityanath has never been part of the RSS.
While the so called secular parties have criticised the choice of Adityanath as UP CM, people in the Sangh Parivar have realised that the saffron robed leader is not liked among the more moderate sections of its support base.