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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2401

Yogi after Modi….?

By Tukoji R. Pandit - Syndicate Features

The army of ‘Modi Bhakts’ and commentators, doing some crystal gazing in keeping with the ancient Indian tradition of authoritatively forecasting the future of men and women, has declared that the Bharatiya Janata Party has unofficially settled the issue of ‘After Modi, Who’.

That ‘Mr Who’ is, of course, Adityanath, the 43-year-old ‘hardliner’ chief minister of India’s most populated state who uses the prefix ‘Yogi’ and heads an influential sect of Hindus in Gorakhpur. His appointment made world-wide headlines—and some editorial comments that, rather unusually, the government of India felt obliged to denounce.

A question may be asked why hurry with the announcement, unofficial though it may be, when Narendra Modi is yet to complete even his first five-year tenure as the prime minister of India? The question assumes more importance when looked at in the context of another ‘unofficial’ declaration by the BJP: Modi will be the prime minister for the rest of his life.

But there is a good reason to let the public know now that it will be ‘Yogi After Modi’—whenever that may be. It is the kind of alliteration that you would expect Modi to trumpet at an election rally. The next round of assembly polls is some months away. Modi is in his elements at election rallies when his acidic eloquence reaches new heights. So, we may not hear from Modi or his party officially about the succession plans right now but many observers are already sure that it will be the cow-loving Yogi some of whose followers have formed a ‘private army’ to protect their beloved leader and the ‘national’ causes he espouses.

An immediate reason for the ‘Yogi After Modi’ chant is perhaps the belief that the UP polls results represent another resounding endorsement of the majoritarian, religion-based politics that had led to the installation of Modi as the prime minister. The ‘Hindutva’ wave is supposed to have negated the effects of the anger witnessed across the country in the wake of the sudden withdrawal from circulation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes—86 per cent of currency in circulation—on November 8, 2016. The BJP will not let this wave die if it has to achieve its ultimate goal of making India a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

From among the present BJP legion, the man best suited to keep the Hindutva flag flying is none other than the Yogi who established his credentials by announcing as soon as he took over as the chief minister that his top-most priority is to give teeth to the ‘good’ vigilantes who protect the cow, beat the ‘Romeos’, and so on.

However much his admirers may try to project him as ‘Vikas Purush’ (man dedicated to development) whose leitmotif is alleged to be ‘Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas’ (With All, For All), Modi would not have reached where he has today had he not been seen as the undisputed ‘Hindu Hridya Samrat’ (King of Hindu Hearts) ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2014 when the BJP swept the polls almost exclusively because of the appeal of Modi.

He did let some ‘development’ Mantras slip in in his nation-wide parliamentary poll campaign but what apparently appealed more to his audiences was his trenchant criticism of the then ruling party, Indian National Congress, demonsing its president and vice president, and blistering attacks on the ‘anti-Hindu’ populace professing ‘sickular’ policies.

Modi had chosen the path of aggressive majoritarian politics during his long innings as chief minister in his native Gujarat. Whether Modi could be held responsible for the Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 is beside the point; the fact is that his stock as the ‘Hindu Hridya Samrat’ had gone up by miles.

Against this background, murmurs about Modi as the new BJP ‘icon’—poster boy--began to be heard well ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. L.K. Advani was said to be the official favourite as the projected prime ministerial candidate of his party but the voices supporting Modi could be heard far and wide. At one point, Modi, speaking in Hindi before an audience in his home state, had asked them to get used to his speeches in Hindi as then onwards they would be hearing him speak the ‘Rashtra Bhasha’ (national language) more often. This was before his candidature as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was announced.

While the defeat of the Congress-led UPA appeared certain in 2014, within the BJP, Modi appeared to be emerging as the favourite candidate for the post of the prime minister because Advani, the great Ram Mandir charioteer, lacked the same depth of emotional appeal as Modi after the 2002 carnage in Gujarat.

There are parallels between the path taken by Modi before he took control of the destiny of 1.3 billion Indians and Yogi Adityanath’s ascent to the Lucknow ‘Gaddi’ (seat of power). Modi came into reckoning for the country’s top job after the 2002 incidents in his state. Many would disagree by saying that he had by then already earned a name as an ‘able’ administrator. That may be true but can it be denied that his name began to figure as the BJP prime ministerial candidate only after 2002?

Despite some frantic efforts to show Adityanath as another ‘Vikas Purush’, in the Modi mould, the fact is that he has always spoken as a bigoted majoritarian leader, often using offensive and intimidating language. As chief minister, he seems to be saying that the key to progress in UP, low down in terms of development, lies with cow protection, closing down the high foreign exchange earning meat trade and chastising ‘Romeos’.

Those who demand that the Yogi’s past be overlooked and that he be given a ‘chance’ to show his mettle as a fair and able administrator try to make people forget that Modi was chosen by his party as the prime ministerial candidate largely because he had won the ‘hearts and minds’ of the majority community by his various acts of commission and omission that alienated the minority community.

Gujarat may have progressed under Modi but it should be noticed that the rise of Islamist militancy within the country followed Gujarat events in 2002. Former US President, George Bush, had famously remarked—before 2002—that Islamist militancy had failed to lure India, a country with the second largest Muslim population in the world.

Alas, that is no more true.

- Asian Tribune -

Yogi Adityanath -  the 43-year-old ‘hardliner’
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