The BJP’s choice of “Yogi” Adityanath, the head of the Gorakhnath Mutt (or monastic order) and chief priest of the temple associated with it in the eastern UP city of Gorakhpur, as chief minister in Uttar Pradesh following the party’s sweeping victory in the recent Assembly polls in India’s largest state, which also plays a pivotal role in national politics, is likely to make the country extremely apprehensive. This is due to the Yogi’s strong credentials as the principal instigator behind Hindu-Muslim tensions in UP in recent years. If there is a Mr Alt-Hindu Right in the state, it is this “Yogi”, or Hindu renouncer, who was sworn in as Chief Minister on Sunday as the head of a 47-member ministry. He has in the past run communal campaigns on trumped-up issues and given them names like “love jihad”, and “ghar wapsi”.
The Yogi has been winning Lok Sabha elections from Gorakhpur since 1998. Ironically, he was still thought to be part of the BJP’s loony fringe, although the party sought to capitalise on his campaigns politically. His elevation as CM exposes the worrying reality that he is not fringe, but perfectly mainstream within his party. The BJP’s professed development agenda, highlighted in the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign by then PM candidate Narendra Modi, and since then encapsulated in the PM’s slogan of Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas (“With everyone, development for all”) wasn’t much in evidence in the Assembly poll campaign Mr Modi ran practically single-handedly. And then comes the shocker of the elevation of Adityanath, a man who is not religious but communal. He has also shown no streak so far of taking up matters relating to “development”.
It’s hard to see how this man can make good that deficit. Like him, the two deputy chief ministers announced at his behest on Saturday are also plain RSS protagonists, with no experience of administration or development politics. For UP, one of the country’s poorest states, this is unfortunate. We have to wait and see what kind of administration takes shape under Adityanath. But there should be little surprise if the focus shifts to Ayodhya and Ram Mandir politics in the cynical expectation that this will help mobilise the votes of Hindus in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, on which Mr Modi has his eyes firmly set. Has Yogi Adityanath been foregrounded in order to lead a massive Hindutva-style divisive mobilisation to prepare for 2019? The bad old days of 1992, which saw the destruction of the Babri Masjid, and the riots and mayhem that followed across the country, could possibly return if reckless political sentiments are not reined in. Development and national advance will suffer when the politics of societal confrontation are thrust centrestage.