On March 18, 2017, when the Bharatiya Janata Party announced that Yogi Adityanath would be made the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, it came as a surprise to most. This was seven days after BJP convincingly won the 2017 UP state assembly elections when the parent party and its allies won 325 out of the 403 assembly seats.
Even though Yogi Adityanath had been an elected member of the Lok Sabha for a record five times from the Gorakhpur constituency, he had always been a controversial leader due to his hardcore Hindutva image, criminal cases registered against him and controversial statements which were blatantly communal and discriminatory towards the Muslim community.
Given how Narendra Modi had become the Prime Minister of India in May 2014 with the slogan of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ and promising ‘development’, this move came as as a shock. Even the ones who refused to see Narendra Modi as a secular leader were rattled. No one expected had expected this.
However, what is happening now further emboldens the belief that for the BJP, the ideology of Hindutva will always remain priority.
Yogi was scheduled to take part in rallies in Karnataka until Saturday, however, he had to cut short his visit since over 70 people died due to a dust-storm in Uttar Pradesh over the past few days.
And in the rallies he took part in, the emphasis was on the Hindutva rhetoric.
In one of his rallies in Shimoga, Karnataka, he said, “The Congress is not concerned about protecting cows or the nation… They will continue to protect jihadi and terrorists… Till the Congress is in power, people like Yasin Bhatkal will continue to raise their heads.”
Hindutva is just not utilised to win votes. Yogi Adityanath and his government’s actions reaffirm that even after becoming the chief minister in March last year, he has not become ‘moderate’ by any means. He has had no qualms in announcing that he does not celebrate Eid, initiating the process of withdrawal of cases against people accused of violent crimes like murdering Muslims in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, introducing the usage of the middle name of BR Ambedkar ‘Ramji’ in official records of the Uttar Pradesh government, etc.
However, one thing which needs to be noted is that the BJP is trying to ensure that Yogi Adityanath’s reach goes beyond the territory of Uttar Pradesh. The BJP has made him the third most important campaigner after Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, even when elections take place outside Uttar Pradesh.
Since the Uttar Pradesh elections which took place last year, there have been state elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland. And currently, campaigning for the Karnataka elections are going on, which are to be held later this month on May 12.
Yogi Adityanath had also taken part in an election rally in Tripura and a roadshow in the state, before the elections in February. He had also addressed rallies in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat late last year before the state elections in the respective states. In all three states, BJP came to power with a majority.
It must be noted that Yogi Adityanath is one of the most recent chief ministers from the Bharatiya Janata Party and he has not even completed 14 months in office.
On the other hand, chief ministers from the BJP such as Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh have been governing the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh respectively since much longer. It must also be remembered that they are not considered to be as extreme in their approach regarding Hindutva in comparison to Yogi Adityanath. However, they campaign on a much smaller scale when elections take place in other states, if at all.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the most active out of the three. He campaigned last year for the Gujarat elections. However, he did not go to Tripura or Himachal Pradesh. He is expected to campaign in Karnataka next week but at a much smaller scale than Adityanath.
What this seems to suggest is that the Bharatiya Janata Party is actively promoting a leader with firebrand Hindutva credentials instead of leaders who may have proven themselves electorally and are not as hardcore in their pursuit of the Hindutva ideology. ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ may have been put on hold for the moment.