Editorial: The New Normal in Uttar Pradesh

The arrival of Adityanath as chief minister is the clearest sign that the BJP as well as its parent, the RSS are thinking of an agenda that goes far beyond just winning elections.

Wire-editorialOne week into his tenure as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and it is already clear what kind of an administration Yogi Adityanath intends to run in the state. Despite his past record of communal hate-mongering and the credible charge of involvement in acts of violence, the BJP and its sympathisers, including in the media, suggested that he be “given a chance” – that he could very well turn out to be a good administrator and perhaps even shed some of his more pernicious and volatile hate-mongering tendencies. Fawning journalists have even written about his dietary habits and the love his cows have for him. All of it aimed at arguing that the yogi is now a changed man.

The naive hopes of the apologists have been swiftly dashed, by none other than Adityanath himself. As chief minister, he quickly got down to business – the two most important decisions he has taken are the shutting down of ‘illegal’ abattoirs and the unleashing of moral policing on the youth of Uttar Pradesh. The grant for the Hindu Mansarovar yatra has been doubled to Rs 1 lakh and his government will now build a centre for pilgrims in Delhi. All these decisions have been taken without the yogi holding a single cabinet meeting and are clearly aimed at appeasing the BJP’s religious vote bank. Yet, we are supposed to believe the party is still committed to ‘development’ because … government officials have been asked to come on time.

The first week’s roller-coaster ride is all in keeping with his – and his larger parivar’s – core agenda. Going after abattoirs, and the meat trade in general, has hit the livelihood of tens of thousands of Muslims. Letting loose vigilantes and giving the police powers to go after consenting young couples under the guise of targeting ‘Romeos’ fits in well with the reactionary notion that unmarried men and women should not socialise with each other.

Adityanath may not have said anything incendiary yet but can it be forgotten that he and his organisation have been in the forefront of fomenting communal tensions in the state for the past few years? There are charges against him of criminal intimidation, attempt to murder, rioting and even defiling a place of worship with the intention of insulting a religion. All along, the BJP and its supporters have insisted that the likes of Adityanath are merely ‘fringe’ elements, not reflective of the party’s stance. Today, it is clear that there is no ‘fringe’. When it comes to the Sangh parivar, there may be a division of labour  in terms of who plays what role at any given time but the entire family pursues the same toxic agenda – of fuelling resentment, hatred and even violence against Muslims.

Given Adityanath’s own track record and the ideology of the Sangh, what effect is state power likely to have on him? Will he become a messiah of communal and social harmony? Or will he use his position to further the communal agenda he and his backers in the RSS and BJP have had for decades? His first week in office has already given us the answer.

His appointment indicates that the BJP will liberally use the Hindutva card in the next general elections due in 2019, but there is more to it. The arrival of Adityanath is the clearest sign that the BJP as well as its parent, the RSS, are thinking of an agenda that goes far beyond just winning elections. An electoral victory is only a tool to achieve the larger goal. Adityanath, Modi, and those like them, are the faces in whom the RSS will repose faith to fulfil its longstanding dream of turning India into a ‘Hindu rashtra’.

As chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Adityanath is obliged to think of the welfare of every citizen of the state and deal equitably and justly with one and all regardless of religion or caste or food preferences. This is the concept of raj dharma that flows from Ambedkar and the Constitution. The manner in which he has begun his tenure, however, suggests he is being driven by a different calling.