Just a week ago when the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept UP in an unprecedented manner, this writer had said in a column that the saffron party's politics has changed in a way that its Opposition has not been able to fathom. Hence, the sweep but without banking on hardcore Hindutva, something it had done to get to the majority mark in the crucial state last time – in 1991.
The episode of grabbing power in the two small states of Goa and Manipur despite finishing with lesser tallies than the Congress also showed the BJP's edge. The return of Manohar Parrikar as Goa's chief minister from the Centre conveyed the message that the BJP is a much smarter party today. It used the best man to do the job and away from the old political method of Hindutva, it was more development oriented under the leadership of a tech-savvy and modernist prime minister.
But the entire good work of the week was undone on March 18 when Yogi Adityanath, the controversial hardcore Hindutva MP from UP's Gorakhpur, was picked as the state's chief minister by the party. Given the man's caustic tongue and the extremist majoritarian orientation, one wonders the BJP is willing to return to the old days perhaps to make its long-awaited Ram Mandir project a reality.
If that was always in the pipeline, then why did the BJP leadership focus on the development plank during the campaigning of the latest election? The issue of polarisation was raked up occasionally which the analysts believed was done to tackle the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance in the final days of the seven-phase election. But after winning the election on the development plank, the BJP unabashedly pushed it to the back row and prioritised the same-old majoritarian politics by backing a potentially dangerous leader as the chief minister of UP. Weren't the state's voters betrayed?
If Yogi Adityanath attempts to turn UP into a laboratory of Hindutva during his tenure, then PM Modi would have to bear the brunt. The future script of the BJP could resemble the one of 2004 when the memories of the 2002 pogroms in Gujarat proved to be one of the factors that had derailed Atal Behari Vajpayee's good run at the Centre.
By picking Adityanath, BJP will also upset its liberal supporters
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Adityanath's arrival could also pose another serious challenge to the BJP by rupturing the ranks of its followers – both political and apolitical. The BJP of the Modi years has successfully scripted a narrative alternative to Hindutva and that is love for the nation or nationalism. The sections of the society that did not find the Hindutva appeal acceptable were won by the card of nationalism. But now, backing a leader who doesn't even hesitate in promoting Hindutva in a raw manner would again annoy those constituencies and would rock the BJP's universal appeal. A prominent example is veteran actor Anupam Kher who supports the BJP and its nationalistic narrative but also clearly reveals the dislike for the sants and yogis – the trademark carrier of the saffron flag. This could give the hapless Opposition something to cheer about as well.
Was there any need for BJP to take this step?
If PM Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah really plan to give Adityanath a free hand to do whatever he wants to do with the brute majority in the Assembly, then the state which had helped them storm to power in 2014 could think differently in 2019. After conveying the message before the election that the BJP doesn't believe in social fragmentation but universal development, if the BJP's top leadership picks a man who only believes in religious polarisation as the chief executive of the state, then there is a serious problem in the BJP's way of seeing things. Was there any need for this move?
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Have Modi and his team started believing that they are invincible and hence turning complacent and hence planning to toy with people's fate? If that is how they have perceived things, then there are ominous days ahead for the party.
The party which was showing enough possibility to suit the new realities of the changing India, suddenly went 25 years back one fine morning. It's a pity. But perhaps this is how megalomaniacs invite their own downfall.