How Far Will Adityanath Take His Mission of Saffronisation?

From declaring towns in the state as official pilgrimage sites to his colour drive, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister is going all out in his obvious push for Hindutva.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath. Credit: PTI

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath. Credit: PTI

Notwithstanding his oft-repeated proclamations of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ and his assertions about putting the state on the path of development, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath has left no stone unturned in pushing his hardcore Hindutva agenda.

Since he muscled his way into power in the country’s most populous state nearly seven months ago, the saffron-clad monk-turned-BJP-leader has been devising subtle ways of keeping the Hindutva flame alive. Having created much hype through contentious issues like ‘love jihad,’ ‘ghar wapsi’ and the ban on cow slaughter – with which he skilfully served his objective of Hindu polarisation – Adityanath has found yet another way to push his obvious agenda while the state heads towards civic elections.

Last week, Vrindavan and Barsana were declared as ‘tirth sthal’ (pilgrimage sites). The declaration of a place as a pilgrimage site entails a ban on liquor and meat shops, besides special emphasis on the promotion of religious and cultural tourism. “Vrindavan and Barsana too will now witness similar regulations that will require suitable amendments in the Excise Act as well as food laws.” As for people whose livelihood was dependent on the sale of liquor, meat or non-vegetarian food, “They would be relocated,” a government spokesman said.

Could this be another way of taking people’s attention away from the chief minister’s failure to deliver on the promises he made months ago of “gaddha mukta (pothole free)” roads and making the state crime and corruption free?

His fad for saffron is yet another obvious part of his Hindutva mission. While wearing saffron robes is a part of the tradition of most Hindu monks, giving a saffron hue to various things reflects the expression of aggressive Hindutva. As if it was part of that agenda, the chief minister’s main office building is currently being painted in Adityanath’s favourite ochre.

The five-storied building, erected in 1982 during the regime of the then chief minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh, remained off-white for several years until the arrival of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati. During her last stint (2007-2012), the BSP chief decided to make it spotless white. Her successor Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party chose to maintain the elegant colour.

The chief minister’s office in Lucknow, now with a Saffron hue. Credit: ANI

But as soon as Adityanath came to power in the state, the scenario began to change. As long as only his chair in the office was draped in saffron, it was understandable. After all, as a mahant and head of the Gorakhnath temple, anyone in Adityanath’s place was bound to prefer sitting on a saffron chair. But turning the entire building saffron could not be perceived as anything but part of a larger objective, specially when the incumbent – widely recognised as a Hindutva icon and even a rabble-rouser – was so adept at the politics of polarisation.

Adityanath has been on a saffronisation spree for a while now. After draping each of his chairs in saffron – in different offices as well as in his official residence – the next thing on his agenda was changing the colour of all bags given to children in government schools. The bags previously carried pictures of both Akhilesh and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav. While the removal of those pictures was bound to happen under any new government, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister has ensured that the new colour was no other than saffron.

The next thing to be painted saffron were some buses of the state road transport corporation. The exercise began with a batch of 50 buses launched under what was christened the ‘Sankalp Seva’, a scheme intended to establish transport links between villages across the state. The launch ceremony was carried out from a pandal that was also carefully made in saffron.

Launch of the bus service by Adityanath. Credit: Twitter/@_garrywalia

Launch of the bus service by Adityanath. Credit: Twitter/@_garrywalia

When the Indian and New Zealand cricket teams arrived in Kanpur for a one-day international last week, the team members were welcomed on behalf of the Adityanath government with saffron-coloured scarves.

There can be no denying the fact that the politics of colour was pursued in their respective ways also by Adityanath’s predecessors Mulayam, Mayawati and Akhilesh. However, while the Samajwadi Party kept it limited to tokenism of donning red caps or flying red and green flags, banners and buntings on special party functions, Mayawati took it to another level. She not only got the colour of road dividers and railings changed from yellow and black to blue and white, but even forced traffic cops to switch from khakhi and white to blue and white.

Sure enough, Adityanath has already beaten all his political rivals in the colour war in just seven months. To what heights he will take his saffronisation remains to be seen.