March 20, 2017
The Tribune, March 20, 2017
NO one need fret about the choice of Yogi Adityanath, a saffron extremist facing trial on charges of incitement to communal rioting and attempt to murder, as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister. Prime Minister Modi has defied the conventional wisdom, once again. Every party has its Adityanath or Azam Khan, but only the BJP arms them with such positions and power. Those who believed in the BJP’s vikas narrative — and disbelieved and took lightly the underlying communal streak — are in no position to complain. They had read the UP mandate as a vote in favour of development and demonetisation, and congratulated the voters for disregarding caste/class politics. For the BJP it is clear the road to 2019 goes through a communal cauldron which Adityanath can be trusted to keep simmering. Whether the endorsement of Hindutva’s hardcore face comes from the RSS or the PM, or both, is immaterial; political consequences will be huge for the BJP. The party that had earlier gambled on Modi with such stupendous success has not hesitated in placing its bets on Yogi Adityanath, making even its moderate supporters a bit uncomfortable. They are now forced to defend the indefensible. Anyway, the BJP has a history of handing over chief ministerial posts to “hardliners” or even RSS pracharaks—among them being Narendra Modi, Uma Bharti, Manohar Lal Khattar, and more recently, Trivendra Singh Rawat of Uttarakhand. After Yogi Adityanath, they appear harmless. Giving power to a short-tempered, intolerant yogi is not without its risks. None of the saner elements in Sangh Parivar or the PMO may be able to restrain him from tearing apart the secular fabric of Uttar Pradesh beyond a limit. The BJP had a good candidate for the top post in Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha, an able administrator with an M. Tech. Instead the BJP has picked up a Thakur as CM and a member of the OBC and a Brahmin as Deputy CMs, all inexperienced in administration. Academic qualifications or administrative credentials do not seem to matter in the larger game plan of building a divisive agenda for 2019.