On 19 March, Yogi Adityanath is sworn in as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. He is the choice of none other than Narendra Modi. When the BJP announced it the previous day, it shocked the inertial world of Indian intellectuals. They thought that by choosing Adityanath, known to be hindutva hardliner and firebrand anti-Muslim, Modi is shelving the agenda of development and returning to its polarizing politics. This naiveté of progressives and intellectuals is responsible for bringing India to this fore that a BJP-like Brahmanical party identified with trading class and upper castes becomes invincible in India populated by the backwards, both in class as well as caste terms. The recent state elections have proved beyond doubt that 2019 elections will be the cake walk for the BJP.
The intellectuals innocently believed that Modi won UP election on the issue of development. Did he? Development rhetoric of Modi is at least partly used to score a communal point by stressing how the BJP does not discriminate people by their castes or communities, as reflected in his ‘sab ka sath, sab ka vikas’. It is to negate the principle of social justice. A shrewd politician as he is, he uses his polarizing armory judiciously as may be seen in his ‘samshan and kabarasthan’ comment. This time he did not need to use it because polarization was already complete as reflected in BJP not fielding any Muslim candidate. The intelligent reports provided him confidence that it was not necessary. The other half of his development rhetoric came handy in pursuing the neoliberal agenda.
Modi and Yogi
Modi has been a phenomenon to reckon with in the rise of hindutva politics. Unlike earlier prominent leaders of the BJP, Modi comes from a middle class/caste background, has been a hindutva hardliner, self-confident to the extent of being narcissist, extraordinary communicator, and ruthless executioner. He consolidated his position as the chief minister of Gujarat by inciting statewide carnage of Muslims and pursuing a heady mix of Hindutva and neoliberal policies. While his communal actions turned entire world against him, he skillfully used it to his own advantage to construct his macho image. He demonstrated importance of using communal rhetoric to construct majority and consolidating it emotionally in Indian elections.
The logic, with which Modi was chosen to be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, informs the choice of Adityanath to be the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Yogi like Modi is a hindutva hardliner, with equally vitriolic tounge against the Muslims, but capable of evoking emotions in Hindus as established by his popularity among his voters. Like Modi he is also abhorred by the secularist and intellectuals, which rather qualified him for the coveted reward. As the head priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt, he also confirms the ideal profile of the head of the state as the RSS envisages. He is the best bet for the BJP in 2019 elections.
BJP knows well that the Indian elections are won on emotional issues than the issues of material interests of people. In the wake of 1971 war, Indira Gandhi’s sweeping polls, or after her assassination, Rajiv Gandhi doing almost the same or for that matter Modi’s fantastic win in the 2014 elections are basically evoking emotions in people. With an accumulated experience of last seven decades, people have given up expecting any change in their lives through elections. The very fact that the people have easily forgotten their sufferings due to demonetization, or the galloping increases in prices, rising suicides of farmers, and flown in the Modi rhetoric, proves what works with the Indian voters. If you have enough money and skills to play with emotions of people, you can win elections in India. BJP knows that Adityanath has these skills in ample measure. After all, he has won all the elections in his constituency from 1998 onwards.
Glimpses of Hindu Rashtra
Modi has provided a prototype of the Hindu Rashtra. What after all can be the Hindu Rashtra? Contrary to commonplace notion, India has never been a secular country. The neutrality of the state towards all religions is a notion and it is violated more often than not. All state functions, even in pre-2014 India, dominated by Hindu imagery. The pictures of Hindu gods adorned all offices. All state ceremonies are based on Hindu religious traditions and Hindu rites. A case objecting to chief justice of the Gujarat High Court performing Hindu yadna in an official function, as violative of secularism was filed by an Ahmadabad-based social activist, Raju Solanki in 2012. The High Court had slapped a fine of Rs 20,000 for filing a frivolous case. The Supreme Court had anyway held that Hindutva or Hinduism was not a religion but a way of life, the precise definition RSS gives. What 2014 did is to instill confidence in practice. Now every other person is seen flaunting Hindu mark on his forehead and tying vermillion threads on his wrist.
Still the secularists ostrich-like believe India as a secular country and dread the concept of Hindu Rashtra. What are the tangible markers of Hindu Rashtra beyond what exists? Golwalkar had explicated it borrowing the slogan from Nazis, ‘Ein vok, ein reich, ein fuhrer’ by coining ‘one nation, one leader, one language’. Modi has provided its prototype over the past two and half years. Modi as a fuhrer decides everything, communicates directly to the people, his ‘man ki baat’ is supposed to be the government vision, he is not bound by the parliamentary decorum, cabinet is inconsequential, just to carry his writ. This is all done without an iota of change sought in the Constitution. Post-2019, the current hurdle the BJP faces in Rajya Sabha would have gone. It may do certain amendments to the Constitution, such as bringing in a presidential system where president may be the executive head of the nation, a bi-cameral system, one with the elected representatives and the other one comprising religious leaders, a la a Dharma sansad.
The portents of the proverbial Acche Din are loud and clear!
Anand Teltumbde is writer and civil rights activist with CPDR, Mumbai