Uttar Pradesh 2017

Yogi Adityanath unleashes Hindutva blitz

N.P. Singh, the Amroha mandal president of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, campaigning at Hasanpur in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh.  

The 44-year-old, five-time MP, Yogi Adityanath, has never been a favourite of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) top brass. Wary of his individualistic style and strong personal following, they fear that — given an opportunity — he could emerge as a pan-Uttar Pradesh leader.

But in the present elections, for the first time, he has been deployed outside his native Purvanchal to canvass votes in western U.P., with the party even placing a private plane at his disposal. BJP sources pointed out that he was, belatedly, invited to Lucknow to address a press conference and then fielded late in the campaign season as a star campaigner.

Once the BJP leadership realised that demonetisation was working against it in U.P., its candidate-selection had led to a mini-revolt among workers in many districts, and the Jats of the western districts had decided to vote against the party, it decided to go back to its tried and trusted Hindutva agenda.

A crowdpuller

Yogi Adityanath, a powerful orator, was clearly the man for the job, someone who could bring back these issues into the electoral discourse. Today, across western U.P. — in areas that cover the first two phases of polling in the State — he is drawing impressive crowds, just as his brand of dog whistle politics has done in the past.

The mahant of the Goraknath Mandir, Yogi Adityanath also heads the 15-year-old Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), a Bajrang Dal-style militia, particularly effective in the east U.P. districts of Deoria, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar and Siddharthnagar. Here, its activists have been known to convert minor incidents into communal conflagrations.

‘Ghar wapsi’ row

For some years, now, the HYV been expanding westwards, gaining notoriety: a few months back they arrived at Bhootpuri, a village in Bijnor district, to organise ghar wapsi for some locals who had converted to Christianity.

N.P. Singh, the HYV’s Moradabad mandal in-charge, whom I meet minutes after the Yogi delivered a powerful speech in Hasanpur, proudly recalls that incident.

He then turns to the subject of his leader: “This is the first time Yogiji has been invited to campaign in an election. He didn’t come in the 2012 Assembly polls or in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He came only once for some by-elections.”

A key staple in Yogi Adityanath’s current speeches is a commitment to prevent western U.P. from following Kashmir’s example in “expelling Hindus”: this is a reference to the BJP’s continuing claim that in Muzaffarnagar’s Kairana, Hindus are being driven out by Muslims, even though this has been disputed by the district administration. He also promises that the BJP will constitute anti-Romeo squads (another name for the saffron family’s ‘love jihad’ campaign) if it comes to power in U.P.

Of course, the Yogi adds his own twist saying that the culprits will be hung.

Polarising politics

Is the Yogi making an impact? In the village of Mangrola, in the Hasanpur assembly area, Suresh Singh, a Gujjar farmer talks of his fear of Muslims stealing cattle and his approval of Akhilesh Yadav as Chief Minister in the same breath. So who is he voting for? “The SP,” he says, adding, “but many Gujjars are voting BJP.”

This kind of ambivalence crops up in other villages in the area, especially among the non-Yadav backward castes.

There is no saffron wave as was evident in 2014, but the Yogi’s whistle-stop tour in this region is re-awakening old enmities.


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 7:39:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-2017/Yogi-Adityanath-unleashes-Hindutva-blitz/article17293713.ece

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