Yogi Adityanath became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh after the spectacular victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recently held assembly polls. Neither had he contested for an assembly seat nor was he projected as the Chief Minister by the BJP in the lead-up to the polls. Why so many eyebrows were raised at the nomination of Adityanath is obvious. Adityanath has been the most assertive and aggressive face of politics in the name of religion. He has many criminal charges against him. His statements against the Muslim minority used to be dubbed as coming from the “fringe elements”. His hate statements are innumerable and have been in the media off and on. His campaigns and speeches on “love jihad”, “ghar wapsi” and “cow protection” have been unpalatable to the moderate media and even to the moderate-sounding leaders of the BJP.
So, why Adityanath in preference to other leaders who appear to have moderate views? Despite the fact that Adityanath has built his own support base apart from that of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Adityanath has roots in the Hindu Mahasabha ideology, which overlaps greatly with the RSS politics. He has made no bones about his anti-Muslim stance. It seems that those who matter in RSS-BJP politics differed on who should become the chief minister, which became apparent with the choice of Adityanath. This election result is the culmination of processes in which communal polarization played a key role. All development issues were linked to Hindutva and the message to Hindus was that they had been deprived of these fruits of development as the governments had spent their energies in pampering and appeasing Muslims. The BJP projected itself as the only hope for the development of Hindus. Adityanath compared the imaginary exodus of Hindus from Kairana as the migration of pandits from the Kashmir Valley. The BJP didn’t have a single Muslim candidate. The election results show that BJP succeeded in its strategy of “dividing Muslim votes” and uniting Hindu votes.
Adityanath’s elevation is a signal that now the RSS-BJP is going to play the communal card in the most blatant way and they are not going to bother about Muslims, for this election has shown that even 20 per cent of Muslim votes did not matter as these votes were split between, and effectively neutralized by, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party. The other message is that now the RSS-BJP is going to be overtly on the offensive for a Hindu Rashtra. Adityanath himself had said that he wanted to convert UP into Hindu Rashtra before turning his attention towards the rest of the country. In the aftermath of the Gujarat carnage in 2002 in which thousands – mostly Muslims – lost their lives he stated that UP would be next target.
With the ascendance of Modi-Adityanath type politics and the looming threat of a Hindu Rashtra, what has been the response of opposition parties? So far, they have usually taken a suicidal path, except in the case of Bihar Assembly elections. Many leaders have been massaging their own egos rather than sticking to the values their political agenda espouses. The threat of Hindu Rashtra is not just to the minorities. In fact, it is a threat to what the Constitution of Indian stands for – Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, which entail social justice and affirmative action for the weaker sections of society.
Many political analysts feel that democratic forces need to come together at this juncture. While the BJP is controlled by the RSS – the organization that glorifies the past when casteism was the norm and authoritarianism was the political system – most other parties have not been able to pursue democratic and secular values in earnest. They have made opportunistic alliances, although most of them fall within the gambit of Indian nationalism. BJP is for Hindu nationalism. Can its march be halted? The 2019 General Elections appear to be headed the BJP’s way unless the other political parties take Adityanath’s coming to power as a wakeup call. One has seen in the past a determined opposition overcome the electoral and social engineering resorted to by the RSS-BJP. In the last general elections BJP had polled 31 per cent of the votes. At the time, its vote share in Uttar Pradesh was around 41 per cent. In these assembly elections the BJP’s vote share was 39 odd per cent.
How do other political parties see the BJP’s agenda? The party with largest base in society till now, Congress, has been totally against the RSS-BJP, though ideologically it has not been able to sustain the secular credentials of the times of Gandhi, Nehru and Maulana Azad. The Left, which mainly includes the Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPM) and the Communist Party of India (CPI), see the BJP as an aggressive communal party, even a fascist one. The regional parties’ attitude is very uncertain, as many of them have allied with the BJP in the past. AAP, the new, rising star for many a citizen, has so far been a single-agenda “anti-corruption” party. Will it be a part of the anti-communal alliance? Time alone will tell, as its main strategy so far has been to enter the electoral fray only where contest is between the BJP and Congress; time will tell whether they see divisive politics as a threat to democracy and ally with other parties to form a democratic coalition at the national stage. Social movements that stand for the rights of weaker sections of society need to form a platform for the defence of democracy.
With Yogi Adityanath coming to power, the parties that aren’t controlled by the RSS have a choice to make – hang together or be ready to be decimated. Electoral alliances of the kind we saw in Bihar hold the key for the times to come.
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