(Yogi Adityanath has been named as the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. In the light of this announcement, The Quint is republishing this article from its archives, originally published on 4 March 2017 as a part of The Quint's Uttar Pradesh Assembly election reportage.)
“Yogi Adityanathji sacche Hindutva se door ho chuke hain.”
Sitting under a canopied Shiv mandir on a crumbling state highway in Padrauna district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, I nod along to an observation I thought I’d never hear. Is Yogi Adityanath, the epitome of extreme-right political discourse in India, not ‘Hindutva’ enough? And yet, that’s exactly what Ajay Kumar Pandey aka Pappu Pandey, and other members of a rebel group in Hindu Yuva Vahini believe.
Yogi Adityanath’s soft stance on Hindutva, and unfair distribution of tickets in BJP, has compelled Pandey and other members of Yuva Vahini to break away and contest elections in 13 constituencies in the Assembly elections in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Politically, the fringe group’s impact may not be larger than around 5,000 votes in each constituency. But the emergence of this motley group of rebels can be seen as a political science example of “ethnic outbidding”. And ideologically, it raises an interesting question: What does far-right of Yogi Adityanath, infamous for his incendiary speeches against Muslims, look like?
Tempos, And An ‘Anti-Hindu Gods’ Comment
On the ballot paper, rebellion looks like a tempo.
Pappu Pandey is contesting elections from the Padrauna assembly seat, around 73 km from Gorakhpur, and his election symbol is a black-and-yellow auto-rickshaw. Dressed in a bright-green shirt and a red Nehru jacket, Pandey gets off the lead vehicle in a convoy of SUVs to meet us in a Shiv mandir; his followers in tow, sporting tilaks and holding campaign flyers.
Pandey is angry at Yogi Adityanath for giving BJP tickets to ‘outsider’ candidates, especially former BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya.
Maurya, BJP’s candidate from Padrauna district, has allegedly made comments against Hindu gods and goddesses. Within Hindu Yuva Vahini, Yogi Adityanath’s support of an ostensibly ‘anti-Hindu’ leader, is being seen as his betrayal of core-hardcore Hindutva values.
Interestingly, Pandey says that his fight is not against Yogi Adityanath; in fact, his election is being fought with “Yogi ji ka aashirwad.” The conflict in a BJP MP giving blessings to a competing candidate in an important district is explained away as Hindu Yuva Vahini being a ‘parallel organisation.’
Coffee, Served With a Dash of Radical Hindutva
The Hindu Yuva Vahini was founded by Yogi Adityanath in 2002, and functions in the state as a vigilante, Hindutva social outfit. The Vahini’s history of violence filters in uneasily as we sit in a banquet hall adjoining a newly-opened restaurant in Gorakhpur, meeting Sunil Singh, the leader of the rebel group.
“ Hum sab ne itna sab kiya hai Yogiji ke liye. Yeh jail mein tha, ek Muslim ke khoon ke liye.” Singh proudly yanks a young boy to the front as an example to explain the rebel group’s dedication and service to Yogi Adityanath’s Hindutva agenda. A pause and then, “ Lijiye madam, coffee lijiye.”
As surreal as the combo of coffee and radical Hindutva premised on hatred of Muslims seems, it is the trigger on which the rebellion within Yogi Adityanath’s ranks is based.
“ Yogiji ne tickets bech ke, Hindu sanskriti ko gaali di hai.” Sunil Singh says to vociferous nodding in the room as he explains how Adityanath has moved away from hardcore-Hindu agenda, eroding his identity as a ‘ kattar Hindutva’.
Tickets in Purvanchal in BJP have been handed out to well-connected candidates, on the criteria of ‘katta (country-made revolvers), bhatta (brick kilns) and dupatta.’
But the candidates fielded by Hindu Yuva Vahini are contesting as independent, with ‘support’ from an unlikely alliance partner, Shiv Sena. At the time of our meeting, the candidates from Hindu Yuva Vahini were waiting for the BMC polls to get over, so that Uddhav Thackeray could lend their campaign strength to them.
Interestingly, when Yogi Adityanath was brought in by the BJP to campaign in the BMC elections, he was reportedly greeted with:
“Dekho dekho kaun aaya
Hinduon ka sher aaya
Hindustan mein rehna hoga
Yogi Yogi kehna hoga”
But in his hometown Gorakhpur (called “ Hindutva ki laboratory” by Sunil Singh), the lair of the lion seems threatened. And by his loyal pack of wolves.
(Source: The Indian Express)