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5-min read

Yogi Adityanath Making Conscious Effort to Tone Down Public Image

In an obviously carefully crafted media strategy, newly appointed Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, granted three interviews to different media — print, television and online. The interviews, almost echoing or mirroring each other, depict a leader making a conscious effort to tone down his public image while not abandoning the basis of his politics.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay |

Updated:April 7, 2017, 4:05 PM IST
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Yogi Adityanath Making Conscious Effort to Tone Down Public Image
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yodi Adityanath. (Photo: Reuters)

In an obviously carefully crafted media strategy, newly appointed Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, granted three interviews to different media — print, television and online. The interviews, almost echoing or mirroring each other, depict a leader making a conscious effort to tone down his public image while not abandoning the basis of his politics.

Adityanath's selection by the Bharatiya Janata Party triggered a howl of protests all over. This stemmed from his association with the so-called fringe in the Sangh Parivar, his personal background as Mahant of Gorakhnath Peeth and for his not so easy relations with several leaders in the saffron fraternity.

Internationally, the verdict was split with one section drawing attention to potential rise in anxiety of religious minorities while the other group, including American and French Presidents Donald Trump and Francois Hollande, calling up Prime Minister Narendra Modi to compliment him for leading his party to a stunning victory.

As far as his appointment is concerned, the Yogi provided a timeline, according to which Modi not only was sure about victory in UP, but had also made up his mind that Adityanath would be his man in Lucknow. The UP chief minister stated that the prime minister struck his name off the list of MPs nominated by MEA to visit the United States and Port of Spain on March 10, a day before counting.

In an article in Firstpost, sister publication of this website, I argued that with his appointment, Adityanath was presented with a historic opportunity to "reinvent himself" and his position had "striking parallels" with where Modi had been in after winning leading BJP to power in 2002.

Back then, Modi embarked on recasting himself as Vikas Purush as distinct from Hindu Hriday Samrat. The three interviews suggest that the new chief minister is turning out to be a quick learner and his words were restrained and devoid of provocation. The charged up Yogi is clearly in the past and what emerges from these interviews is a man who knows that he has an opportunity the most envy and it was up to him to make the best out of it.

He promised officers there would be no witch hunt and bureaucrats and police officers appointed by the previous regime could breathe easy, provided they pursued BJP's primary commitments to voters: providing efficient governance and ensuring the rule of law. But his statement that babus adapt " to the political leadership's priorities" also indicates his view that the bureaucracy has little mind of its own. This would surely not go down well with several in the system.

There is little doubt that this Yogi sees Modi not just as his role model, but as a bigger yogi. When he was asked that many questioned a person who began as a religious priest and is expected to renounce material comfort and political power was appointed chief minister, Adityanath turned the argument on its head. Cleverly, he expanded the idea behind the word and converted Yogi as a metaphor. He argued that any person with commitments matching Modi's or his, was best suited to govern, "Raj satta to Yogi hee chala sakta hai," he asserted and that "satta is not for mauj-masti but for sadhna."

Also Read: In Yogi Adityanath, Everyone in Saffron Coalition Found a Point of Convergence

The latter construction obviously is the Adityanath's way of connecting with his core constituency - to convey his idea of politics as Dharma and that there was nothing wrong for a religious leader to sit in a position of power provided it was for the good of people. His future hypothesis on this theme has to be watched to study evolution of the Hindutva theory of political practise.

In these interviews, obviously granted after agreement that there would be no cross examination, Adityanath held forth on his agenda: the rationale behind loan waiver, his development priorities, health, education, law and order, streamlining decision making, wheat procurement policy, woes of cane farmers.

Not to be missed is the fact that the Yogi skirted the issue of palayan or "forced migration" which had become a contentious issue on the BJP plank during polls. Instead of using the prism used to highlight the party's claims on Kairana, the chief minister used the word in the economic framework and contended that people migrate because of no employment and business opportunities.

Predictably, Adityanath was faced with the two most contentious issues - Romeo squads and closure of illegal slaughter houses. On both, he batted for the government and its push on these issues with reserve in contrast to the high octave, once his trademark in public speeches. Yet, at no point was Adityanath on the defensive and display the attributes of a man uncertain of his decision.

Adityanath knew that whenever he talks about insecurity of 'mataaen aur bahnein' during the previous regime, people understand what he was talking about and thus there is no to be explicit. Clearly, Adityanath has tailwind behind him because of woeful record of the previous regime in maintaining law and order and its conscious decision to overlook the National Green Tribunal's order on slaughter houses.

Leaving no doubt that the Modi Model was his, Adityanath announced a decision on which heckles have been raised by the RSS in the past - teaching English in schools. He promised to introduce the language from the nursery level because to make children " wait till Class VI to get familiarised with the English alphabet makes little sense." In contrast Sanskrit will be introduced from Class III with option of a foreign language from Class X.

In needs to be recalled that RSS was not in favour of introducing English in schools early. Modi brushed aside these objections in 2009 and attempted to use the Educational Satellite of the Indian Space Research Organisation and take the language to schools by installing TV sets in schools and directly telecast English lessons by the teachers based in Gandhinagar.

Because Adityanath does not want to face hurdles that Modi failed to surmount, he has begun early. He was asked if his stance on promoting English was surprising given his image of a traditionalist. He replied: " Traditional and modern should blend." Clearly, Adityanath is aiming for a combination of the extreme and moderation. He will push his politics and much more, but all with a benign face. That would be quite an astute strategy.

nilanjan mukhopadhyayThe author is a Delhi-based writer and journalist. He authored 'Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times', and 'Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984.' He is @NilanjanUdwin on Twitter. Views are personal.

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| Edited by: Ananya Chakraborty
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