Keshav Maurya as UP chief shows BJP won't alienate Hindutva politics

Sharat Pradhan
Sharat PradhanApr 09, 2016 | 17:17

Keshav Maurya as UP chief shows BJP won't alienate Hindutva politics

After three months of dithering, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership on April 8 named a Hindu hardliner Keshav Prasad Maurya as the party’s new Uttar Pradesh president, sending the message far and wide that the party had made up its mind to once again play the Hindutva card when the state goes to polls in March 2017.

This also makes it amply evident that contrary to oft-repeated proclamations by the party about how committed it was to prime minister Narendra Modi’s politics of aspiration, the dominant element in the party was still deeply wedded to the politics of religious polarisation. Also, the fact that nearly one dozen criminal cases including murder were pending against Maurya goes in sharp contrast to Modi’s much hyped emphasis on “clean image”.


Besides Hindutva, Maurya’s OBC background is seen as the party’s ploy to woo the backwards, who form a giant vote bank in the state, where BJP’s influence was traditionally limited to the upper caste Hindus. It was only in the 2014 national elections that popular support could cut across caste lines in the name of Narendra Modi and take the party to unprecedented heights here. It was after 12 years that the party considered a OBC to be entrusted with the leadership of the party in the state.

Maurya succeeds Laxmi Kant Bajpai, whose term concluded in December, after which a search was on for a “suitable” leader, who could infuse life into the otherwise rudderless party, even though it held sway over as many as 71 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats.

A first time MP from Phulpur (Allahabad), a parliamentary constituency once held by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, Maurya was better recognised for his long association with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Having been a close lieutenant of former VHP supremo, the late Ashok Singhal, he was a visible face at various stages of the Ayodhya temple movement, particularly since the late '80s.


Sure enough, BJP national president Amit Shah handpicked Maurya largely for his credentials as a vociferous Hindutva torchbearer. And this sends very clear signals of what lies in store for the party in the run up to the 2017 state assembly election.

Interestingly, however, the top rung of the party was currently busy highlighting how Maurya had risen from his very humble beggining to rise to his present status. What was being particularly focused on were his early years as a “tea-seller” in an obvious bid to make him look like another Modi in the making. It was another matter that no one knows how he could mop up assets worth Rs 9 crore – as per his own admission while filing his nomination from Phulpur Lok Sabha constituency in 2014. The only other position of consequence he had held was of an MLA in 2012.

It may be recalled that Shah had always wanted to entrust the party’s leadership in the country’s most populous state to a Hindu hardliner. That was amply demonstrated barely three months after the 2014 Lok sabha elections, when he gave the leadership of the party’s campaign for the then 11 bye-elections to none other than Yogi Adityanath, the saffron-clad BJP MP from Gorakhpur. It was Adityanath who rakes up issues like “love jihad” and “ghar wapsi”, with the sole intention to polarise the votes on religious lines.


However, all his effort proved counter-productive when the party lost eight of the 11 seats. Adityanath was made to lie low, which led everyone to believe that the party leadership had realised their mistake.

Therefore, when the hunt for a new state president began three months back, it was felt that the party would zero in on a moderate and a balanced leader who could dwell largely on Modi’s development agenda. But, apparently, Shah could not resist his instinctive urge to handpick someone who would stick to the party’s traditional Hindutva line.

Even though Maurya was not half as widely known as the saffron-clad Adityanath, who has a cult-like following in parts of the poverty-ridden Eastern UP, his identification with the Ayodhya temple movement, anti-cow slaughter campaign, "Bharat Mata ki Jai" campaign and above all his decade long stint as "pracharak" of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) became his scoring points.

The fact that some of the pending criminal cases against him were about inciting communal passions gave him a further edge over other contenders for the top party job in the state.

Last updated: April 10, 2016 | 23:49
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