2017, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Adityanath: He always promised to make Uttar Pradesh the horror story it has become

As Yogi raj marauds around the state, wreaking atrocity upon sordid atrocity, reposting a piece in The Telegraph from the day he took over reins as chief minister. What is happening today under him was never tough to foretell

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March 18, 2017: As widely perceived and often stridently promised, the Bharatiya Janata Party has brought the D word to Uttar Pradesh’s centre stage; it’s not development, it’s divisiveness.

Few can match the unwavering sectarian virulence of Yogi Adityanath, who steamrollered his way to unanimous election as Uttar Pradesh chief minister this evening amid vociferous “Jai Shri Ram” cries from a cheer-mob that clotted central Lucknow’s arteries.

And far too many, even among those he outstripped, stood better qualified to handle the country’s second most important political and governance assignment. The Uttar Pradesh BJP doesn’t lack for leaders with administrative experience. The man it has picked doesn’t have any.

About the only institution Yogi Adityanath, aka Ajay Singh Bisht, originally from Garhwal, has ever presided over is Gorakhpur’s Gorakhnath Math, a prosperous temple trust. As mahant of the Math, Adityanath has been used to wielding unquestioned authority and expecting blind obeisance. Such, that he has often brooked no restraint from the law and flagrantly violated it. Jailed once in 2007 for encouraging Hindutva rioters and flouting prohibitory orders, Adityanath has often not been ashamed to play outlaw. This man is now the law in Uttar Pradesh.

He hasn’t baulked at bringing social peace to peril. He has shared a stage with hate preachers and those that have made open exhorts to violence against minorities. Much of what Adityanath has to say from the public stage probably deserves no repetition because it is patently violative of constitutional values, the law and good sense. But for those that might seek a sense, social media sites store an abundance.

Adityanath has, in the past, compared Shah Rukh Khan to the JuD chief and terror patron Hafiz Saeed. He has pejoratively labelled Kairana, a Muslim-dominated pocket in western Uttar Pradesh, as Kashmir, a “hub of anti-nationals”.

He is the one who inspired the “love jihad” campaign a few years ago, blaming upon the minority community a civilisational conspiracy to gain ascendancy of numbers. Later, using “love jihad” as leitmotif, he played militant proselytiser, peppering the heartland with aggressive calls for a counterblast – “We must do the same with their girls, I will celebrate each one of their girls that comes into our homes, each one that becomes a Hindu and enhances our national pride!”

Asked during the run for Uttar Pradesh if he believed India was for Hindus alone, he batted not an eyelid and said: “India and Hindus are two sides of the same coin. India belongs to Hindus, the time has now come for everyone to accept and follow this.”

Mid-campaign, a senior minister in the Modi government camped at Varanasi had exuded confidence over a runaway victory and argued that it was the “hunger for development” that was paying the BJP campaign key dividends.

“You watch, we will wing a big victory and will put a first rate administrator with integrity in the chief minister’s chair. That’s key to the preparation for 2019,” he had told The Telegraph.

Adityanath’s choice has come to rudely mock that sense, if it existed at all. Indeed, the sense in some sections of the party this evening was of numb surprise. Had the Yogi used commandeered street temper and backroom blackmail to grab the job, or was he the man Modi and Amit Shah always had in mind?

Was there really a foregrounded development manifesto someone with experience was to be tasked with, or was that merely a smokescreen? The jury remains out on this one.

What’s apparent, though, is that like very often in the past, the BJP and the Sangh ran a calculated two-faced campaign. The leaders chanted development, their apparatchiks blistered social media and the bush telegraph with a nakedly communal seduction to the voter.

No BJP leader of any note embraced or even took cognisance of the virulent campaign that ran on WhatsApp through the Uttar Pradesh campaign, for instance; pertinently, none of them dissociated from it.

The shrill air that pervaded Adityanath’s stunning ascension to power may have drowned, even debunked, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim that his was a victory driven by the development card.

It has, instead, brought another echo from the campaign booming back – his kabristan versus smashan thrust, an unabashedly divisive play of the dice. It is that outburst from Modi, and its worrisome implications, that remind of Adityanath and the meaning of his arrival more than anything else.

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