A Hindutva Tadka: How Yogi Adityanath added a dash of heated Hindutva to PM Modi's campaign

Sharat Pradhan
Sharat PradhanMay 25, 2019 | 11:06

A Hindutva Tadka: How Yogi Adityanath added a dash of heated Hindutva to PM Modi's campaign

If religion rode over caste in Uttar Pradesh, it was Yogi’s doing. His success has only strengthened his personal political bastion now.

If the BJP commander, Narendra Modi, went about impressing upon the people across the length and breadth of the country that he and he alone was the country’s saviour and messiah, it was his subaltern Yogi Adityanath, who was complementing him by adding the Hindutva spice to Modi’s campaign that has turned India’s political map saffron.

Although Yogi’s primary role was limited to Uttar Pradesh, where he heads a two-year-old BJP government, he made it a point to follow the Modi trail in a number of places across the country.


Leaning In: Yogi Adityanath's rallies followed PM Modi's rallies, the Yogi often making a pitch for Hindu votes. (Source: PTI)

If Modi addressed about 175 rallies across the entire country, Yogi too managed 137 — though 28 of these were in Gorakhpur alone, while about 70 were in other parts of UP.

Outside the state, he made it a point to largely visit only such constituencies that were on the itinerary of PM Modi.

No wonder he could claim success in more than 60% of the constituencies where he addressed rallies — even though the fact was that it was Modi who had already cast his spell there. Yet, his propaganda machinery makes no bones about reportedly attributing these victories to him.

Still, there could be no denying that his speeches did serve his apparent intent to divide and polarise the vote on communal lines through his oft-repeated references to ‘Ali and Bajrangbali’ and loud talk about “politics of appeasement” (read 'Muslim appeasement'). He also blatantly played the Hindutva card — something that Modi very consciously avoided, while concentrating largely on development and aspirational politics.

Yogi’s key worry was his own home bastion of Gorakhpur — where he had faced tremendous embarrassment after his nominee got devastated in a by-election in March 2018. The saffron-clad Yogi, who commands a huge following as head of the Gorakhnath temple, had himself held this Lok Sabha seat for five successive terms. The by-election came following his resignation as MP, after he became chief minister.


What brought down his nominee was the sudden bonhomie between the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP), who fielded a joint candidate. This revival of the old alliance that had broken 25 years ago did wonders as it demolished the BJP citadel not only in Gorakhpur but also in two other Lok Sabha seats of Kairana and Phulpur, besides an Assembly constituency of Noorpur.

With the experiment having yielded fabulous results, BSP supremo Mayawati agreed to join hands with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav in order to give the BJP a run for its money in the Lok Sabha election. However, this time, the gathbandhan that was seen as a formidable caste combination fell flat, as it was completely overwhelmed by the Hindutva dash injected by Yogi.

Bhojpuri film actor Ravi Kishen, who was hand-picked for Gorakhpur this time, was initially regarded as a ‘poor choice’ by the Yogi camp — but he finally romped home, restoring Yogi's prestige in his personal political bastion.

A New Role: Yogi Adityanath's hand-picked candidate, filmstar Ravi Kishen, pulled off the Gorakhpur polls, despite skepticism. (Source: Twitter)

Modi might have been described by Time magazine as ‘India’s divider–in-chief’, but the fact remains that Yogi Adityanath’s rise has been essentially on the politics of a hate-ridden communal divide. Right from the time he shot into the spotlight while playing aggressive Hindutva politics under the banner of his own raising, Hindu Yuva Vahini, to his ascendance as UP chief minister in 2017, his track record has been that of a Hindu hardliner.


Thus, when it came to the 2019 poll campaign, he left no stone unturned to play up his usual Hindutva pitch, which often landed him in controversy and even earned the Election Commission’s rap.

But nothing succeeds like success. The challenge put up by the SP-BSP (later joined by RLD) was huge for Yogi, especially since the alliance had done wonders in four by-elections. At the end of the day, however, the tally ended with 62 seats for the BJP, two for its ally Apna Dal, 10 for BSP, five for SP — and just one for the Congress. The RLD failed to open its account even in the party chief Ajit Singh’s much hyped Jat stronghold of Baghpat.

If religion rode over caste, it was Yogi’s doing.

However, on the flip side, what is noticeable is that despite all the divisive tactics, Yogi could not repeat the history that Modi wrote in 2014 — by bagging 71 of UP’s 80 seats, besides two for its ally Apna Dal.

Last updated: May 25, 2019 | 16:14
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