Assembly elections

March of Hindutva

Print edition : April 14, 2017

Lucknow, March 19: Yogi Adityanath after being sworn in as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, flanked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Dehradun, March 18: Narendra Modi congratulating the new Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Trivendra Singh Rawat, after the oath-taking ceremony. Photo: Virender Singh Negi

Chandigarh, March 16: Governor V.P. Singh Badnore administering the oath of office to the new Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh. Photo: PTI

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh. Photo: PTI

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. Photo: MONEY SHARMA/AFP

The outcome of the recent Assembly elections, especially the elevation of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, shows that the BJP’s rising political supremacy has emboldened it enough to embark on a no-holds-barred pursuit of power and the Hindutva agenda.

AS the results of the recent Assembly elections in five States came in on March 11, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah claimed that the party would form governments in four of those States, although it had won a clear majority in only Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Before the month was over, the claim came true.

Goa and Manipur returned hung Assemblies, and in neither State did the BJP emerge as the single largest party. The Congress, which defeated the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance decisively in Punjab, was the single largest party in both Goa and Manipur. Goa, indeed, was the State where the BJP fared the worst in this round of Assembly elections. Yet, the string of swearing-in ceremonies of BJP Chief Ministers started with Manohar Parrikar’s oath-taking in Panaji, Goa, on March 14. On March 15, it was N. Biren Singh in Imphal, Manipur. On March 18, it was Trivendra Singh Rawat in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. Yogi Adityanath’s oath-taking in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP won the biggest victory, came last on March 19. In between, the Congress completed its government-formation formalities in Punjab, the only State where it won a clear majority, with Captain Amarinder Singh taking the oath of office on March 16.

Several political nuances are ingrained in this very sequence of swearing-in ceremonies and the events that unfolded after the results were announced. They are multidimensional and with diverse specifications for different States, but an overall assessment points to three dominant themes. First, the BJP’s political supremacy, particularly that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, allows the leadership extraordinary leverage in extralegal political and administrative manipulation. Second, this climate of political supremacy has emboldened the BJP and its larger Hindutva fraternity led by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) to the extent that they can afford to shed all pretences of moderation and blatantly advance their core sectarian and communal agenda. Third, the Congress is reeling so pathetically in the face of this BJP-Sangh Parivar onslaught that it seems to have lost even the realpolitik skills for which it was once widely acclaimed across the political spectrum.

The element of extralegal political and administrative manipulation was on display most strikingly in the formation of governments in Goa and Manipur. The BJP got only 13 of the 40 seats in Goa, where it had an incumbent government with 24 seats in the outgoing Assembly. Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar was defeated in the election. The Congress, on the other hand, got 17 seats and its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), won one seat. Yet, the BJP managed to cobble up a majority by forming alliances with regional parties, including Goa Forward, which won three seats and had contested the election on an overtly anti-BJP platform. The turnaround was achieved by political manipulation involving senior Union Ministers and personalities in important constitutional offices.

The Congress emerged as the single largest party (winning 28 of the 60 seats) in Manipur, where the party ruled continuously for 15 years. Here too, the BJP resorted to unseemly machinations. Ashab Uddin, a first-time independent MLA, was taken from his constituency of Jiribam in south Manipur to Silchar and Guwahati in Assam. For a brief while, central security forces were deployed to detain him at Imphal’s Tulihal airport. It looks like Goa and Manipur have become, early in 2017, symbols of the BJP’s no-holds-barred political and administrative transgressions to capture power.

The blatant pursuit of a Hindutva agenda was also evident in the selection of Adityanath as the Chief Minister of India’s most populous State. The controversial 44-year-old priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt is known for his rabidly sectarian stances against minority communities and reactionary views on gender. These have repeatedly manifested themselves as vitriolic verbal and physical assaults, leading to several criminal cases against the five-time Lok Sabha member. A newspaper editorial commented that Adityanath had “routinised conflict and thuggery in political discourse”. He was picked over several other BJP leaders who were considered to have better governance experience and a more balanced understanding of Uttar Pradesh society. It was evident that the onus of the selection lay entirely on Modi and Amit Shah. There was apparently no process of consultation on the issue.

Still, several names did the rounds within the party and among observers. These included Union Minister Manoj Sinha, State party president Keshav Prasad Maurya and Lucknow Mayor Dinesh Sharma. The names of veteran MLAs Suresh Kumar Khanna and Satish Mahana also came up briefly. At one point, Manoj Sinha was treated as the frontrunner on account of his administrative skills. However, when the final call was taken all these factors were set aside and Adityanath’s Hindutva face was pushed up. According to Sangh Parivar insiders, Modi and Amit Shah chose him because the electoral verdict in Uttar Pradesh had clearly endorsed the Hindutva agenda that had been forcefully advanced by the party and its leaders. Apparently, though Manoj Sinha was credited with better administrative skills, he was perceived to be less given to Hindutva aggression than many others in the State BJP.

A senior Lucknow-based RSS activist told Frontline: “Amit Shah ji was very clear that the BJP and the Sangh Parivar can have no let-up on an aggressive Hindutva agenda until the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. And that understanding has acceptance across all Sangh Parivar organisations, including the RSS.”

He added that Amit Shah and Modi had initiated several manoeuvres to retain and consolidate the powerful combination non-Yadav Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Most Backward Caste (MBC) communities and non-Jatav Dalit communities had forged in the context of the recent elections. “This has been done with a clear assertion that the reins of leadership will be with the upper-caste communities, who have been the long-standing support base of the party. Hence you have the Thakur Adityanath as Chief Minister, and the MBC Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brahmin Dinesh Sharma as Deputy Chief Ministers. The structure is clearly laid out here.”

All other castes are represented in the Ministry, and there is even a token Muslim presence. Beyond this, indications are that the Modi-Amit Shah duo are planning a huge manoeuvre through the appointment of a Dalit Jatav State party president to replace Maurya.

The RSS activist said: “This will be a masterstroke that will further erode the political and organisational base of the Bahujan Samaj Party and its leader Mayawati, strengthening a pan-Hindu consolidation in the run-up to 2019.” (Former Chief Minister Mayawati belongs to the Dalit Jatav caste.) The RSS activist added that Modi’s reference to the fulfilment of a “new India” by 2022 has great symbolic value against the background of Adityanath’s elevation and the pan-Hindu consolidation plans as 2022 will mark the 100th year of the publication of the primary treatise on Hindutva by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

“Modi ji has said that he will not rest, and nor will he let anyone else rest. Evidently, he is working to a plan.”

Meanwhile, the country’s grand old party is floundering. The deficiencies of the national leadership, particularly those of party vice president Rahul Gandhi, are increasingly conspicuous, but there are no concrete steps at course correction. Party workers joke that Punjab too would have been lost if Rahul Gandhi had spent more time campaigning there. The failure to form governments in Manipur and Goa has added to discontentment within the party. Viswajit Rane, son of former Goa Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane resigned from the Congress saying he was exasperated by the “disgusting failure of the Congress in Goa” to come up with the right moves. He joined the BJP Ministry.

Senior leaders such as Digvijaya Singh take consolation from the fact that they have been able to stop the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab and Goa. Clearly, the grand old party of India has no larger plans to counter the BJP and the Sangh Parivar and the march of their communal politics.

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