The elevation of firebrand BJP MP from Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath, as the new Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has shocked and surprised many. Yogi’s past makes him a “divisive, abusive and polarising” figure in Uttar Pradesh. To many critics, Yogi’s rise signals the end of political niceties or correctness. That you can get rewarded for being blunt and not regarding the sensibilities of a particular community.
After people offered a historic mandate to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh, it was expected that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will select a CM who would inspire confidence among all communities of the state. By selecting Yogi, PM Modi now has a lot of explaining to do and it is not going to be easy.
According to The Indian Express contributing editor Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the elevation of Yogi is an “an odious choice because the BJP has picked someone who is widely regarded as the single most divisive, abusive, polarising figure in UP politics. He is a politician who has, for most of his political career, been the mascot of militant Hindu sectarianism, reactionary ideas, routinised conflict and thuggery in political discourse, and an eco-system where the vilest legitimations of violence are not far away.”
Mehta further says that Yogi’s elevation is also an “an ominous development because it sends as clear a signal as it is possible to send at this time; the already accomplished political fact of the marginalisation of minorities in UP and elsewhere will now be translated into a programme of their cultural, social and symbolic subordination.”
राज्य सरकार उत्तर प्रदेश को विकास और खुशहाली के रास्ते पर आगे बढ़ाने के लिए प्रतिबद्ध- श्री योगी आदित्यनाथ, माननीय मुख्यमंत्री, उत्तर प्रदेश
— CM Office, GoUP (@CMOfficeUP) March 19, 2017
Mehta writes, Yogi as CM signals that “BJP will now be dominated by extremes, its politics shaped largely by resentment rather than hope, collective narcissism rather than an acknowledgement of plurality, hate rather than reconciliation, and violence rather than decency. Hubris has set in. The party believes it can get away with anything. It now intends to.”
Mehta makes several arguments to show that Modi has chosen to “defeat India” in his moment of “political triumph” by picking Yogi. Here are some of them:
- “BJP supporters are hiding behind the façade of party democracy to legitimise this choice… So, the only conclusion is that it was a duplicity of sorts —”of sorts” because the ideological currents were apparent in the prime minister’s speeches and the BJP manifesto.”
- “Every argument that leads to legitimising this choice bodes ill for the country. If the legislature electing Adityanath is indeed the best interpretation of the mandate, then Indian democracy is corroded to the core: For it is effectively saying that India is now communalised to the point where a figure like Adityanath is the popular choice.”
- “If Adityanath is indeed the popular choice, then the crisis of Indian democracy deepens: It will essentially seem like a contest between fundamentalism and democratic misanthropy, both destructive of the idea of democracy. On the other hand, if his elevation is a misreading of the mandate, then too we are in deep trouble: For it will show the limits of democracy in containing sheer hubris.”
- “What is striking about Adityanath’s political career so far is that there is not even a whiff of acknowledgement that he might need to speak to something larger, acknowledge civility, or stay away from fear-mongering and the legitimisation of violence. There is nothing else here, other than a tissue of resentment and hate, unless you think the Gorakhpur model of politics is a harbinger of development.”
- “There is an element of truth in Yogi Adityanath’s claim that the BJP is consolidating a politics that goes beyond caste, at least in the way it was conventionally understood. But we are left with the disquieting conclusion that the form of consolidation “beyond caste” he practises will rely on an even more insidious communal politics.”
- “The political challenges of this moment are going to be immense. Modi’s rise to power has empowered a lot of nasty characters. Now they get wholescale control of the state apparatus in India’s largest state, and with every intention to reshape it in their image.”
- “A forcing of the hand on the Ram Mandir issue is now an imminent prospect. Visible opposition will be difficult to mount because of the BJP’s total dominance, and this will likely make the situation worse. The usual safety valves of Indian democracy are slowly shutting.”
- “We have no idea of what kind of politics this suffocation will spawn. India’s enemies will be exulting that at a moment in world history, when all India had to do was to have a sensible policy, we have chosen to empower the worst of ourselves.”