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Adityanath Yogi as UP CM: Lack of Options or a Masterstroke in Politics?

First, a mandate beyond expectation for the party surprised many BJP leaders. Now, the choice of Gorakhpur MP Mahant Yogi Adityanath as chief minister has left many within the party confused. ‎

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:March 19, 2017, 4:28 PM IST
Adityanath Yogi as UP CM:  Lack of Options or a Masterstroke in Politics?
Yogi Adityanath taking oath as Uttar Pradesh chief minister on March 19, 2017. (Image: TV Grab/CNN-News18)

Lucknow: First, a mandate beyond expectation for the party surprised many BJP leaders. Now, the choice of Gorakhpur MP Mahant Yogi Adityanath as chief minister has left many within the party confused. ‎

If Adityanath was the chosen one, the name of consensus within the party and the Sangh, then why was this delay of a week in declaring the name, they ask.

Second, what was the need for a strong Hindutva projection when the party had already got a massive mandate? Further, Yogi is known to be an entity by himself. He can't be expected to be a rubber stamp chief minister.

Hence, the question now silently doing the rounds within the BJP is whether the choice of the 44-year-old five-time MP shows a 'lack of choice'‎ or a political masterstroke by Amit Shah and Prime Minister Modi.

If it is a masterstroke, keeping 2019 Lok Sabha elections in mind, then many fail to understand the logic.

As a senior BJP leader, on condition of anonymity, said, “Hindu consolidation had already been achieved in this election. Upper castes, backwards and a section of Dalits strongly voted for the party. When the said purpose has already being achieved then why project a hardline Hindutva face?”

Another point which baffles a section of party leaders is that, even if hard Hindutva is the party's game plan for 2019, it was not necessary to bring in someone as CM who is known for his divisive comments, and politics of communal polarisation. Someone who had refused to mellow down and was seen making communal statements even in the recently concluded UP Assembly polls.

Talking to CNN-News18 during the campaign in February this year, Adityanath had said his party wanted to "end the situation where electricity is provided to a Dewa Sharif (a Sufi Shrine) but power supply is disrupted to Mahadev (a Hindu temple)." Electoral rally after rally, Adityanath had attempted a subtle polarisation, mixing religion with development.

He later clarified, “A BJP government, if it comes to power will ensure development for all, ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ and it will be done by ending the communal and casteist bias in implementation of the schemes.”

The question which arises now is why someone known for such divisive politics, went on to become the CM choice. Was he purely the first choice of Modi-Shah and the RSS, or was there something else behind his name being endorsed for the top job?

Finding an answer to that is not easy, for not many leaders within the party are ready to talk even off the record.

But from whatever could be picked from sources, some interesting observations have emerged. A senior leader, who is a key figure in party organisation, told CNN-News18 that post March 11, initially, Rajnath Singh was the most probable CM choice.

This despite the fact that he was not acceptable to party president Amit Shah. But the tide turned against him, and as days passed by, ‎choices for the high profile post became limited.

The name that was seriously considered next was that of Union Minister Manoj Sinha. He was the choice of both Shah and Modi, but then a senior RSS functionary from UP had serious reservations about it. This jeopardised Sinha's possibilities.

With no names emerging and with powerful leaders from the state openly flaunting their ambition as time ticked by, the party had to go for a quick decision.

With indecisiveness ‎prevailing even as late as the morning of March 18, the day the BJP legislature party meeting was to be held, the state headquarters witnessed an open show of strength by both state president Keshav Maurya and Adityanath. Their supporters stormed the party office in support of their leaders. The live footage of which was streamed across news channels.

A senior party leader points out, "As the choices got narrowed down, neither Maurya nor Adityanath were ready to relent. Contacts were even made with elected MLAs.”

It was ultimately this 'lack of option' which led to the formula of a shared leadership in the government. A CM with two deputies theory was rolled out with two intentions. One, to satisfy the caste equilibrium and second, to keep a check on Yogi. An effort, though unsuccessful, to dilute the strong Hindutva line perception.

Now that Adityanath has been made the CM, the challenge for the party will be to fight the perception that the government is pro hardline Hindutva. Though Lucknow Mayor Dinesh Sharma, one of the deputy CMs, is seen as a more acceptable and tolerant face, the perception about Adityanath and CM Maurya are different.

Professor Harsh Kumar of Gorakhpur University is someone who had seen and studied Adityanath for long. He says, “Since late '90s, Adityanath has been the posterboy of hardline Hindutva. His statements, his very persona, echoes that.”

“How he is going come out of this 'Brand Yogi' image will be interesting to watch. But his elevation has surprised many, even those who had voted for the BJP in this elections. Because they had voted in name of development and not hardcore Hindutva,” he adds.

| Edited by: Sujit Nath
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