The spectacular victory of BJP in UP Assembly poll was capped by the choosing of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister. He had not contested for the Assembly nor was he projected as the Chief Minister by BJP before polls. Why so many eyebrows have been raised with the nomination of Yogi is very apparent. Yogi has been the most assertive and aggressive face of the politics in the name of religion. He has many criminal charges against him. His statements against Muslim minority so far have been dubbed as coming from ‘fringe elements’. His hate statements are innumerable and have been in the media off and on. His campaigns and speeches around ‘love jihad’, ‘ghar wapasi’, and ‘cow protection’ have been unpalatable to moderate media and the moderate posing leaders of BJP itself.
So why is Yogi preferred to other mild and moderate sounding leaders? This is also despite the fact that Yogi has built his own support base away from the usual RSS base. Yogi has rooting among the Hindu Mahasabha ideology, which overlaps greatly with the RSS politics. He has never made bones about his anti-Muslim stance on most of the issues. It seems that those who matter in RSS-BJP politics seem to have come to various conclusions, which become apparent with the choice of Yogi Adityanath.
First is that this election result is the culmination of the processes in which communal polarization played the key roles. All development issues were linked to Hindutva and the message to Hindus was that you are deprived of these fruits of Vikas (development) as Muslims are being pampered, appeased and that BJP is the only hope for vikas of Hindus. The make believe issue of exodus from Kairana was compared by Yogi himself to the migration of Pundits from Kashmir valley. The BJP stance in elections was very clear, not a single seat was given to any Muslim candidate. The election results show that BJP partly succeeded in its strategy of ‘dividing Muslim votes’ and uniting Hindu votes.
Yogi’s elevation is a signal that now RSS-BJP are going to use the communal card in the most blatant way and they are not going to bother about Muslim votes as this election has shown that even 20% of Muslim votes did not matter as these votes were effectively neutralized between Akhilesh on one hand and Mayawati on the other. The other message is tactical that now the RSS-BJP is going to launch the offensive for Hindu Rashtra in an overt fashion. Yogi himself had vouched that he wants to convert UP into Hindu rashtra before converting the whole India into the same. In the aftermath of Gujarat carnage and the phrase ‘laboratory of Hindu Rasthra’ for Gujarat, in 2000 he stated that UP will be next in line.
While there is surprise in quarters about Yogi being the choice, if we understand the deeper politics of BJP-RSS we will realize that spectrum of their politics is from hate speeches leading to violence to the agenda of Hindu rashtra. If we survey their politics in the electoral arena from last few decades what becomes clear is that depending on the strength and opportunity their language changes and the same person who in the beginning sounds aggressive may use moderate language for broader acceptability.
Modi has been the typical example of using the language to suit the occasion. His language from Gujarat carnage days to present times has undergone a transition towards being more subtle. Earlier he coined ‘rehabilitation centres as Child breeding factories’ or ‘Hum Do Hamara Do – Woh Panch Unke Pachhis’ (We two with two children, they five with twenty children). Now in the present UP elections he cleverly gave the polarizing message by using Shamsan-Kabristan and electricity for Diwali or Id. So Yogi that way is not pariah for this politics, he has been using a type of language which plays crucial role in polarizing. His actions and expressions have been divisive to the extreme. With his elevation as CM the signal from the Hindu right is that they are going in full swing with their Hindutva agenda. What was presented apologetically as fringe has been part of the well thought out game plan. Now the same fringe will be main stream without any cover.
With the ascendance of Modi-Yogi politics and threat of Hindu Rashtra, what has been the response of opposition parties? So far mostly they have taken a suicidal path, except in case of Bihar Assembly elections. Many leaders have been pampering to their own narrow egos rather than sticking to the values their political agenda espouses. The threat of Hindu Rashtra is not just to minorities. As such it is threat to all what the Constitution of Indian stands for, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, social justice and affirmative action for the weaker sections of society.
The threat of this politics is now being realized by many writers like Yogendra Yadav. He says that BJP politics is hegemonic, is dominant, it has support among large section and it is infiltrating the institutions like those of research and learning in an unprecedented way. The argument put forward by many political analysts is that democratic forces need to come together at this juncture. Similar argument has been articulated by many writers from quite some time, who feel that BJP politics is a ‘politics with a difference’. While other parties have some semblance for toeing democratic norms, BJP is working for the goal of Hindu Rashtra. It is the only party which in ideological sense is controlled by RSS, the organization which glorifies the past times where caste was the norm and authoritarian state was the political system.
It is true that most other parties have not been able to sustain the democratic and secular values to full earnest. They have made opportunistic alliances but most of them are within the gambit of Indian Nationalism. BJP is for Hindu nationalism. Can its march be halted? The 2019 General elections seem to be a giveaway unless the other political formation takes Yogi’s coming to power as a wakeup call. One has seen that a determined opposition can come to power overcoming the electoral and social engineering resorted to by BJP-RSS. In last general elections BJP had polled 31% of votes. In UP that time its vote share was around 41%, now in Assembly elections it is 39 odd percent.
How do other political parties see the agenda of BJP? The party with largest base in society till now, Congress has been totally against BJP-RSS, though ideologically it has not been able to sustain the secular credential of the times of Gandhi, Nehru and Maulana Azad.
Many leaders of Congress crossing over to BJP time and over again do indicate the lack of ideological strength. Communists, CPI and CPM do see BJP as an aggressive communal party, while good section among them also sees it as a fascist party. The regional parties’ character is very uncertain, as many of them have allied with BJP in the past.
AAP, the new rising star for many a citizens, is so far a single agenda ‘anti-corruption’ party, which emerged from Anna-Ramdev-Kejriwal movement and which was heavily supported by RSS all through.
It projected Congress as the fountain head of corruption, ignoring the corruption indulged in by other electoral outfits. Will it be a part of anti-communal alliance? Time alone will tell, as so far its main goal has been to jump in the electoral fray only at places where there is a straight fight between BJP and Congress; time will tell whether they see divisive politics as a threat to democracy and ally with other parties to form a Democratic coalition at national stage.
Writing is clear on the wall with Yogi coming to power, either non RSS controlled parties hang together or be ready to be decimated in the dust of electoral politics. The social movements have an important part to play to keep up the expression of the interests of farmers, workers, Adivasis and religious minorities. Ideologically the fight for Indian nationalism has to be stepped up to combat sectarian nationalism. Many ideologues are trying to present that Hindu nationalism is inclusive. This is like throwing the wool in the eyes of the people.
No nationalism in the name of religion can be inclusive be it in the name of Islam or Buddhism or Christianity for that matter. Nationalism in the name of religion stands on the base of authoritarianism, hierarchy and exclusion. Hope the message of Yogi becoming Chief Minister is registered by all to ensure the multi layered struggle to promote democratic values, inclusion and empowerment of people at large. Electoral alliance of Bihar type does hold the key for times to come.#(Published on 27th March 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 13)