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Bye-poll fallout: Has Yogi Adityanath become a liability for the BJP?

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 2 June 2018, 18:22 IST
(Arya Sharma)


Losing one Assembly and three Lok Sabha bye-elections, including one in his own constituency Gorakhpur, has dented Yogi Adityanath’s image as a political strategist, if he ever had one.

Being a strong votary of Hindutva, Adityanath’s strategy during his years as an MP has been to grab votes using strident Hindutva. He was catapulted to the high office of Uttar Pradesh chief minister precisely for that reason. His being the reigning head of Nath sect with a huge following was an added qualification.

For this reason the BJP decided to use him as its star campaigner wherever elections were held---Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, North-east and even the recent bye-election in Maharashtra's Palghar. His brief apparently was to raise the pitch of Hindutva in order to polarise voters. His success in Gujarat and Karnataka Assembly elections is questionable. However, he is said to have helped woo North Indian voters in Palghar and his Nath card had some success in Tripura earlier this year. But it is his Hindutva card which doesn't seem to be working.

Adityanath’s sole claim to fame being inflammatory speeches and the Gorakhnath temple’s priesthood, he relied heavily on these two factors in Karnataka. In one of his election rallies he described the Congress as a party with “jihadi mindset”.

In Sagar, Adityanath raised the issue of beef, cow slaughter and accused the Congress government of shielding jihadis. He even asked people to choose between Hanuman Jayanti and Tipu Sultan jayanti.

His campaign included visits to temples and meetings with heads of various mutts. At Balenhour near Chikmagalur Adityanath met Veera Someshwara Swami of Rambhapuri mutt and discussed cattle conservation with seer Raghaveshwara Bharathi of Ramchandrapura mutt.

In coastal Karnataka Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Adityanath both campaigned extensively but when results came, all the credit for BJP’s increased tally of seats was given to Adityanath. The results present a different picture.

While the prime minister addressed 21 rallies, Adityanath addressed 17. In all, the two leaders campaigned in 36 constituencies but the outcome was far from satisfactory as BJP gained 11, lost two and retained six of these seats. The net gain, therefore, was of nine seats only. Of the 11 new seats seven were in the coastal belt where Adityanath campaigned extensively. But so did the PM. So, is it fair to give the entire credit for the party’s performance in the southern state to Adityanath?

Neither Modi nor Adityanath’s mojo seemed to have worked in Belgaum where the two-time BJP MP Sanjay Patil, who notoriously said that this election was between Hindus and Muslims, lost by a huge margin.

Yet it was claimed with gusto that Adityanath had done wonders for the BJP in Karnataka elections.

The chief minister persisted with his divisive tactics also in Kairana and Noorpur when he equated ganna (sugarcane) with Jinnah and came a cropper. With sugarcane farmers fuming over their pending arrears of over 12,000 crores, ganna prevailed. In the Thana Bhawan constituency of BJP MLA Suresh Rana, who is also the sugarcane minister, the party got 77,080 votes against 92, 239 votes polled by the Opposition candidate. With Rana having been involved in Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, voters also seem to have rejected politics of polarisation.

The recent losses in the bye-polls are not only a setback to his future prospects in national politics, but they also set tongues wagging about his future as UP CM. Amidst talk of shake-up the state party bosses and ministers have been summoned to Delhi.

Adityanath has not only failed to cast his spell on voters his performance as chief minister too has been disappointing.

A few days back B.Ed qualified teachers staged a protest in Lucknow demanding that they be provided jobs as directed by the Supreme Court. The teachers had taken all necessary permissions from the district administration for their rally yet when they headed towards Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath they were severely lathi-charged.

What aggrieved the teachers more was the apathetic attitude of the basic education department’s principal secretary who, despite the CM’s instruction, adopted delaying tactics in resolving the issue.

This was not an isolated case of the CM’s instructions being ignored by the highly corrupt bureaucracy of Uttar Pradesh. Nor is it the only problem with governance in the state.

A Bharatiya Janata Party MLA wanting to meet the CM was content with meeting a secretary in his department because, as he said, “Yogiji hardly has time to listen.” In any case, the MLA said, he would have referred the file to the secretary with whom he was sitting.

Adityanath’s style of functioning, which is more like that of a temple priest, has made him a failed administrator. In his avatar as head priest he could still get a lot of his work done through his militia, the Hindu Yuva Vahini but handling bureaucracy is a different ball game.

His constant absence from the state capital due to campaign duties did not help matters either.

The BJP is now aware that strident Hindutva notwithstanding, Adityanath was going to be its weak link in 2019. One can now hear the refrain that 2019 will be Modi’s chemistry versus the rest. With talks of BJP numbers in 2019 slipping to 25 from 73 in UP, Adityanath’s neck is on the block.

The UP chief minister may turn to Hindu Yuva Vahini and virulent communalism once again to bolster his sagging fortune. The Vahini is said to have got into the act soon after the Kairana defeat by trying to give the result a communal hue. The victorious candidate Tabassum Hasan of the RLD has accused the Vahini of spreading fake quotes in her name. Several pro-Hindutva individuals and groups on social media were circulating fake news that Tabassum Hasan said that “Allah had won over Ram in the bye-elections”.

First published: 2 June 2018, 18:22 IST