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By Kalyani Shankar

‘Desh mein Modi, Pradesh mein Yogi’ is the new slogan heard in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh after the Gorakhnath Mutt head Yogi Adityanath took over as chief minister of UP on Sunday. The choice of Yogi shows that the BJP interprets the UP victory as a vote for Hindutva although the official text was development. Interestingly, even Yogi, who is known for his hardline Hindutva chanted soon after taking over, “Sab ka saath and sab ka vikas will be my first priority.” Optimists say give him a chance while the doomsayers claim that UP will go the Hindutva way further. While talking of development will he also keep Hindutva as a subtext just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing?

While the credit for the UP victory unquestionably goes to Modi, Adityanath did play a key role in effecting a reverse consolidation of the majority vote behind the BJP. He was the most effective star and the Hindutva poster boy in the campaign addressing hundreds of rallies. He held sway over some 65 seats across 10 districts in the Eastern UP having won his 2014 election by a staggering three lakh votes.

Ever since he stepped into active politics, the only slogan that his supporters raised was, “Gorakhpur mein rehna hai toh Yogi Yogi kehna hai (If you want to stay in Gorakhpur, keep chanting the Yogi’s name)”. In the appointment of five times M.P Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister, the BJP has sent out a loud message that it wants to further consolidate the Hindutva agenda. In fact, Yogi is primarily the choice of the RSS and VHP more than Modi. This means that temple is on the top of the agenda. Love Jihad, Ram Mandir, Kairana were all major election issues for Adityanath – the issues that liberals do not want. Yogi has repeatedly said that the Ram Mandir was a very important issue for him personally and with over 325 MLAs behind him, egged on by the VHP, he might be emboldened to move forward.

Yogi Adityanath may face huge challenges in the coming two years preceding 2019 Lok Sabha polls. UP is important because in 2014, UP gave the BJP 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats and took it forward in the Assembly polls. For this, Yogi has to make sure that his agenda coincides with Modi’s ambition. There is no evidence that Adityanath is the ideal Vikaas Purush to deliver Modi’s development agenda. Yogi has no administrative experience. The choice before him is to choose Hindutva and polarise the electorate further or development.

For the past three years, the BJP has raised the issue of love-jihad, accusing Muslim youths of luring Hindu girls with false promises and changed identities. During the UP polls, Yogi reiterated his promise to set up a Romeo Squad to tackle the ‘threat of love-jihad’. Will being in power restrain him?

Uniform civil code and the triple talaq battle is being fought in the Supreme Court. The state government cannot do much but Modi promised it during the election campaign. BJP chief Amit Shah said during his first interview after the UP victory that a decision would be taken in this regard.

What about his own views on issues like conversion which could overshadow the Prime Minister’s development agenda? “If any government—say, the UP government— wants, it can bring in a law banning conversion and I will support that” he once said.

During the election campaign, BJP leaders including Yogi raised the issue of illegal slaughter houses in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP has alleged that there has been mass exodus of Hindus from Kairana in Western UP, which witnessed communal clashes from 2012-13 onwards. What action will he take on these? The other issues that came up during the campaign were the women’s safety, maternal mortality, health care, education.

First of all, Yogi has to ensure good governance which the BJP manifesto promised and also law and order. Any Hindu -Muslim riots would harm the social harmony. Adityanath has the image of a strong, muscular leader who can deal effectively with UP’s law and order situation.

            The second is the job creation. The party manifesto said “the BJP government will create seven million jobs or opportunities for self-employment in the next five years.” The manifesto also promises Rs 1,000 crore for a start-up venture capital fund, which will also create jobs for the youth.” Will Yogi deliver?

            As for the farm loan waiver, a manifesto promise. Modi had promised that it would be the first decision taken by the new chief minister. The manifesto promises that all agricultural loans will be waived off for small and marginal farmers, while future loans will be provided interest-free. The manifesto has also promised 24 hour supply of electricity and free power for those below poverty line. Further, the BJP promised to pay sugarcane farmers in India’s largest sugarcane-producing state within 14 days of the sale, while also coordinating with mill owners and banks to repay previously owed amounts to sugarcane growers. All these need to be implemented. All these require money.

            While it is too early to predict what Yogi will do, the liberals should take his word that his priority is development and give him benefit of doubt until he proves otherwise. He has been a successful mutt head and with the guidance from the Centre, he might perform well. We should wait and watch. (IPA Service)


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