Forced to stick with Yogi despite facing defeat in UP, BJP resorts to stirring the communal cauldron
Unable to dislodge UP CM Yogi Adityanath, the only option for BJP seems to be to hope that Hindu-Muslim polarisation occurs and works in its favour in assembly polls next year
Even as Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath finds himself in trouble, cow vigilantism has picked up momentum, giving rise to speculation that with the assembly elections barely eight months away, more of such incidents will come to light, causing communal polarisation which traditionally helps the BJP and more specifically UP’s militant Hindu Yuva Vahini supremo, Adityanath.
Yogi’s tall claims of having successfully controlled COVID swiftly in his state have been put paid to by visuals of hundreds of bodies of COVID victims floating in the Ganga and many, many more buried on the river’s banks.
At the moment nothing seems to be working for Yogi. But the Hindutva card and communal polarisation have helped the BJP to a considerable extent since 2013 Muzaffarnagar anti-Muslim pogrom, ostensibly aimed at avenging ‘Love Jihad’ and ‘Goraksha’.
There appears to be tremendous resentment against Yogi Adityanath, to the extent that the party’s high command despatched to Lucknow last week its general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh, the most important post in the ruling party which is reserved for a RSS appointee.
Santhosh met several UP ministers, the two deputy chief ministers and other important members of the party separately, keeping the chief minister away from such meetings, giving a clear message that Yogi no longer enjoys the confidence and trust of the BJP’s high command.
It was also evident that in the run up to the 2022 assembly elections to India’s largest and most crucial state, the BJP is a confused and divided House.
The four-year rule by Yogi in UP can only be characterised in our colloquial political phraseology as rough, unbridled ‘Thakurvaad’, with the law and order machinery acting as Yogi’s handmaiden, pandering to his whims.
Yogi, actually brought up by the Hindu Mahasabha, a more virulent but less influential organisation than the RSS, foisted himself upon the BJP leadership after the 2017 assembly elections, threatening to unleash his Hindu Yuva Vahini were he to be sidelined, leaving the BJP/RSS with no choice.
In a bid to consolidate his militant Hindutva support base, his first task was to wash with milk and ‘purify’ the entire chief minister’s house occupied immediately before him by Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and before that Dalit leader and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, before a Savarna Thakur chief minister entered it.
Soon after that, he launched ‘anti-Romeo squad’ of UP Police, with RSS and Modi bhakts making a big issue of inter religion love marriages, particularly if young Hindu girls married Muslim boys, characterising these as ‘Love Jihad’, a campaign which the RSS ran throughout the country, including in a secular state like Kerala.
Next on his hit list were the butchers of UP, who are almost 90 per cent Muslims and in a few cases, Dalits. In any case, the retail meat trade is largely conducted by the Muslim butchers and the offal and skin treated, seasoned and later used in the leather industry where again the main workers are Muslims or Dalits.
In fulfilling such agenda, Yogi was left with no time nor had any inclination to turn to governance of the state which is larger than most European countries, both in terms of population and area. By August, BRD medical college in Gorakhpur, Yogi’s home constituency, was facing an acute crisis in the form of the deadly encephalitis fever which strikes children almost every year in eastern UP and adjoining districts of Bihar.
Suddenly, it came to the fore that the oxygen supply to the hospital was ending and the company which had the contract to supply oxygen to it had ceased the supply after giving due notice because its pending bills had not been cleared and payment held up by the Finance department functioning directly under the chief minister.
This is when Dr Kafeel Khan rushed to arrange several cylinders to save the lives of as many children as he could that night.
The news of the child deaths due to lack of oxygen on account of Yogi govt’s failure was reported widely in the media next day, causing huge embarrassment to the chief minister.
Next day, he visited the hospital and made Dr Khan a scapegoat. He was suspended, had a FIR registered against him and arrested.
Successive inquiries and investigations however found all charges against Dr Khan bogus and unsubstantiated and courts granted him bail and even quashed the charges, though Dr Kafeel Khan was in jail till September last year in another case.
Meanwhile, in August 2020 the foundation stone for the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya was laid even as Coronavirus ran amok all over the country. Logically, this would have consolidated the Hindutva constituency behind the BJP and Yogi.
But according to sources, the BJP team led by B L Santhosh painted a very bleak picture of the situation before the triumvirate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda.
The primary reason of people’s ire is of course huge number of deaths caused by COVID in all across UP. But that’s apparently not all. It seems that a large number of party MLAs, several ministers and even both the deputy chief ministers are unhappy with Yogi’s functioning.
Modi therefore despatched to UP his trusted troubleshooter, former Gujarat cadre IAS officer A K Sharma whom he wanted to be inducted as deputy chief minister to replace Keshav Prasad Maurya, with Maurya being made the state BJP chief. But Yogi is reportedly resisting such a move.
There is speculation in media circles that Modi is disenchanted with Yogi and wants his wings clipped. But Yogi is no Kalyan Singh, whom the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee got sacked for his insolence in a jiffy. And if Yogi goes out kicking and screaming, it could damage the BJP image immensely, more so if he floated his own outfit to contest elections against the BJP.
On the other hand, with so much of resentment against him, there is every danger of UP slipping out of BJP hands. So, the only option
appears to be leave it to Yogi to raise the communal temperature so high that voters forget everything else than Hindu-Muslim polarisation.
Towards this end, certain Muslim elements claiming to be local AIMIM leaders have reportedly been roped in.
However, if Yogi actually succeeds in retaining power in UP through hook or crook, he is will then be knocking on Delhi’s doors staking claim to be the successor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who by 2024 would be 74-years-old. That is a clear and present danger for Modi.
Views are personal