March 19, 2017

India: Focus on Mandir in run-up to 2019 general elections | The Asian Age Sanjay Basak & Yojna Gusai

The Asian Age

Focus on Mandir in run-up to 2019 general elections

Published : Mar 19, 2017, 1:17 am IST
After demonetisation, Modi’s 2nd gamble ahead of 2019, claims BJP leader.
BJP leader Yogi Adityanath.
 BJP leader Yogi Adityanath.
New Delhi: The chants of  “Sabka saath sabka vikas” on Saturday gave away to frenzied cries of “Jai Shree Ram” and “UP mein rahena hoga toh Yogi Yogi kahena hoga” as the BJP’s Gorakhpur MP, Ajay Singh alias Yogi Adityanath, known for his divisive past and politics, was anointed as the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Sources said putting the Hindutva hawk and founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini at the helm of affairs in UP was a “conscious decision by the BJP top brass in consultation with the RSS”. The decision to pick Adityanath as chief minister was sealed at a meeting between BJP chief Amit Shah and RSS’ second-in-command Bhaiyyaji Joshi in Mumbai last week.
The BJP now appears all set to step up the politics of polarisation ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in order to consolidate the entire Hindu votebank, cutting across caste dynamics, with Uttar Pradesh seen as the gateway to New Delhi, some in the party feel. One of the main things that Yogi Adityanath is expected to focus on is the construction the Ram temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya.
Talking about the decision, a BJP leader said: “After demonetisation, this is Modi’s second gamble before the 2019 elections.” It was, however, also felt in some circles that Adityanath’s choice as chief minister runs the risk of the resurrection of a decimated Opposition in UP as well as across the country.
Moderates in the BJP who had been claiming that the UP mandate was a vote for “development” appeared stunned and till the last moment some top UP leaders kept saying that “it could not be true”.
The decision to make Adityanath chief minister was a closely guarded secret and a number of other names, including that of Union minister Manoj Sinha, were kept in circulation to keep everyone guessing.
A top Cabinet minister, speaking to this newspaper late on Friday night, said: “It’s decided. Manoj Sinha will be the CM.” Unaware of the developments behind closed doors, a confident and beaming Mr Sinha went Saturday morning to temples in Varanasi to offer prayers. By the afternoon he was snapping at the media, and accusing them of dragging his name into the race “unnecessarily”.
To find out the reasons for this somewhat contentious decision, this newspaper spoke to several senior BJP and RSS leaders. Sources said even before the UP polls were under way, the RSS and BJP decided to “seriously start the process of building the much-promised Ram Mandir at Ayodhya if the BJP won the polls.” Both outfits felt the construction of the “much-awaited Ram temple will galvanise the majority of the Hindu community in the BJP’s favour before the 2019 general election.” For this, they needed a strong Hindutva icon and therefore zeroed in on Adityanath.
Yet Yogi Adityanath was not given any clear indication during the campaign, but merely told he “will have no reason to complain... and be given a major responsibility if the party came to power in the state”.
While the BJP refused to give any commitments, two top RSS leaders reassured Adityanath that “his name for the CM’s post will be seriously considered”. At the same time it was made clear he could be made chief minister only if the BJP managed to come to power in the state on its own. Adityanath apparently promised that the “Ram Mandir will be a reality” if he was made CM,” sources said.
Before the UP elections, a conscious decision was taken to play to the Hindu gallery when the BJP decided not to give tickets to a single Muslim candidate, the sources said. The party’s historic victory, with well over 300 seats in the 403-member Assembly, vindicated the party strategy to stick to the Hindu votebank and “isolate” Muslims as far as electoral politics was concerned.
In the entire UP campaign, the BJP kept two narratives running side by side. One was of development while the other was of strident Hindutva. It may be recalled that before the UP election, a survey was done of party cadres to decide on the main electoral plank. A majority of BJP workers and leaders said “Hindutva and nationalism” should be the main planks in UP.
While speaking about development, top BJP leaders including the Prime Minister touched on communally-sensitive issues during the campaign. At the same time, Adityanath and other saffron fringe elements kept their divisive rhetoric going.
Adityanath had earlier attacked Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, saying he “should remember that if people boycott his films, he would also have to wander in the streets like a normal Muslim... These people are speaking in the language of terrorists. I think there is no difference between the language of Shah Rukh Khan and Hafiz Saeed”. He had also earlier targeted Mother Teresa for “conspiring to Christianise India”.