Trumped-up rhetoric: On Yogi Adityanath’s illogical remarks

For demagogues, facts and logic are of little use when shrill rhetoric serves their purpose. For a certain type who rely on bigotry in their politics, rhetoric that can act as a dog whistle is a key weapon in an electoral battle. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s remark that the State could become Kashmir, West Bengal or Kerala if voters committed a mistake, could have been, at any other time or context, laughed at for stretching credulity. But the purpose was not to suggest that India’s most populous State had much to lose in socio-economic terms if it were to go the way of the three States mentioned. Kerala ranks among the best in many a socio-economic indicator, J&K is above average while West Bengal is ahead of U.P. in most metrics. Instead, it was to raise a dog whistle. Also, Kerala and J&K (and the Kashmir Valley specifically) have a higher proportion of religious minorities than the rest of the country while West Bengal too has an above average composition of Muslims. The import of Mr. Adityanath’s remark was that the three States/UTs have a polity with a significant minority representation. This is unlike U.P., where despite minorities being close to 20% of the population, their corresponding proportion in the outgoing Assembly is much lower (5.9%). Muslim legislators are absent in the ruling BJP, which won more than three fourths of the seats in 2017. An electoral defeat for the BJP would entail higher minority representation, an outcome that the Chief Minister sought to warn against in his statement.

The poor indicators on several livelihood factors and socio-economic development in U.P. are related to some extent to governance outcomes. The BJP government has sought to address this through welfare delivery — direct benefit transfers and centrally sponsored schemes. In an ideal situation, the party would have stood by this record of welfare delivery and its hard-line stance on tackling crime. But residents in the State have also suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic on account of inadequate primary health infrastructure, besides other structural features that would have helped tackle long-term poverty and underdevelopment. Inflation (from fuel price hikes) and rampant unemployment have also dented the effect of the minimalist welfare delivery mechanisms. With the farmers’ movement in western U.P. making its mark and discontent among other OBC segments eating at the formidable social coalition stitched together by the party which helped it win substantially from 2014 onwards, the BJP and Mr. Adityanath have reverted to the base politics of religious mobilisation and attempts at polarisation on these lines. If the indications following the first phase of voting are anything to go by, this strategy does not seem to be working. Yet, it would be too naive to expect Mr. Adityanath, a Hindutva politician, to change course.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2022 5:51:57 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/trumped-up-rhetoric-the-hindu-editorial-on-yogi-adityanaths-illogical-remarks/article38414862.ece