Will Yogi Adityanath succeed Modi as prime minister of India?

The media frenzy around the UP CM has started.

 |  6-minute read |   27-03-2017
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Till sometime ago, nobody could imagine Yogi Adityanath as the CM of Uttar Pradesh. Within days of that unexpected event taking place, many are already projecting him as a future Prime Minister. An amazing changing of narrative! But how did that happen?

And what are the chances that this projection is indeed credible?

The first assumption is that the next BJP PM race will begin only after 2024, because Prime Minister Narendra Modi will win 2019. The 2014 Modi wave was no flash in the pan. With the exception of Bihar 2015, Modi has won every major election since then with the biggest prize of UP going into the kitty in a landslide.

Modi’s development agenda is rolling full steam ahead while hard-hitting measures like the PoK #SurgicalStrike and #Demonetisation have found great favour with the populace. The Opposition is in disarray with little time to get their act together by 2019. Modi looks an unstoppable force.

Now you may say a Bofors type scandal may derail 2019 for Modi. But even that may not be enough. The reason for that is Modi’s decisive nature. Just look at Gujarat. The Anandiben Patel government was in great turmoil. Bad press kept coming day in and day out.

Hardik Patel was the toast of the nation and even the AAP got great publicity in Gujarat. The Patel agitation was a blot and governance seemed to have crashed. Overnight she was replaced with Vijay Rupani. Overnight the bad press stopped.

The same thing will happen at the Centre. If we have a scam, then Modi will simply ruthlessly sack the relevant cabinet minister, order a high-level inquiry and move on, as will his supporters. UPA-II dragged along all its scams and the Congress was royally plastered in 2014 due to that.

2024 is the key. Should Modi lose, then the succession battle will begin immediately. But even if he wins, the pressure will be huge for Modi to name a successor, for he will turn 75 in that term.

In 2024, home minister Rajnath Singh will turn 73, while both finance minister Arun Jaitley and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj will be 72. In fact, most of current leaders will be in their late sixties.

With the way Modi has set the retirement age at 75 and put the thrust on youth, hiring at least three CMs younger than “youth icon” Rajiv Gandhi, here’s looking at some leaders who are below 60 today:

Transport minister Nitin Gadkari is 59, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan 58, BJP president Amit Shah 52, power minister Piyush Goyal is 52, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis is 46, Yogi Adityanath 44 and textiles minister Smriti Irani is 41. The Shah to Irani age bracket seems to be the brightest.

This is another reason why the BJP has a greater future due to its generation next leaders. Regional parties are one-man shows with ageing satraps while the Congress has no gen-next leadership to speak of.

jaitley-embed_032717120944.jpg Finance minister Arun Jaitley and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj will be 72 in 2024. Photo: India Today

Which brings us back to the Yogi. The media made Modi out to be a monster, but the electorate thumbed their nose at all manner of liberals and intellectuals. The media is currently making out Yogi to be a monster and you can be sure that the electorate doesn’t care one bit.

In fact, increasingly whoever the media calls a monster, the electorate looks to put them firmly in power. If you don’t believe me then just look at Modi, #Brexit and US president Donald Trump. Even the pariah Geert Wilders came No. 2 in the Dutch polls and far right Marine Le Penn is a frontrunner in France.

The media frenzy around the Yogi has started and you can be sure he will get tonnes of publicity, no matter what. Yogi has already become quite high-profile. With the way it is going, he will end up becoming the most famous (or even infamous, it really doesn’t matter) leader in India after Modi.

You can be sure that by the end of his term, every person in every village in the four corners of India will know who Yogi Adityanath is. That is priceless if you want to be a national grassroots leader. Just ask Modi!

It’s not just style but substance. The media and #AdarshLiberals are showing you only one side of Yogi. Yogi entered the Lok Sabha at the age of 26, one of the youngest India has ever had, a bigger youth leader than Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

At 44, two years younger than Pappu, he is already a five-time MP. He has been very active in the Lok Sabha, asking questions and participating in many fiery debates. If Pappu is one of the worst performing MPs, then Yogi is among the best.

The Yogi is experienced and charismatic and very active in his constituency of Gorakhpur. He has been a regular visitor there and has been sorting out problems due to which his popularity has cut across caste and religious lines. That’s unlike the way Pappu has totally neglected Amethi.

Even before Yogi took over as UP CM, he was very popular among BJP leaders and UP voters and this popularity will now spread across India. Yogi is also a tough-as-nails hardliner. That has been presented as a disadvantage, but not in a state like UP which is reeling under a crime wave and decades of misgovernance.

In fact, he has already hit the ground running. Eve-teasing is a huge problem in UP and while anti-Romeo squads are being presented as Draconian by the national media, they will gain great popularity at the ground level.

Illegal slaughterhouses encourage bad hygiene, cattle theft and are big money earners for certain corrupt leaders. The crackdown will prove to be popular among UP voters in the long run. Even if Yogi does an above-average job and gets re-elected in 2022, he automatically becomes a frontrunner.

His hardliner status will also help him in another way.

You saw the moderate face of AB Vajpayee from 1996-2004, but he was hardly that. Till the 1980s, he was an out and out hardliner and many BJP supporters said he could be replaced only by another hardliner.

LK Advani proved his hardline credentials by his rath yatra and the subsequent Babri Masjid agitation. Advani succeeded Vajpayee, but pulled the latter out of retirement out as a moderate face for the allies. Modi got a hardline image after 2002 Godhra and succeeded Advani.

In fact, there’s a thought process that only a true hardliner can lead the Sangh Parivar. That explains the Vajpayee-Advani-Modi succession. That explains why Jaitley and Sushma never really had a crack at prime ministership and Advani continued at the helm of affairs till 2013.

Till 2017, Modi was the biggest hardliner in the pool that consisted his cabinet and BJP CMs. Not anymore! He has suddenly become No. 2.

All hail to Yogi, the No. 1 hardliner of the Sangh Parivar!

Also read: Yogi Adityanath faces 7 major challenges

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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