Damn! Couldn’t they find absolutely anyone else? That was my first reaction on hearing Yogi Adityanath would be the new CM. Over the next hour as the news started coming in and it started sinking in that yes, the mind boggling mandate would be given to Yogi. It felt so incomprehensible. Why would Modi and Amit Shah make such a blunder? It’s obvious to anyone that the opposition which had been pulverized with the mandate would get a big boost to paint the BJP as communal, anti-muslim their usual charade. Even hypothetically if Yogi is actually a perfectly nice Muslim loving guy.
In politics only perceptions matter. No one actually cares how much work you do or what you really think, it’s about a narrative that media builds and just want to feed everything into it. This is so apparent that his appointment will create a backlash and at a time when BJP really needed to fast-track development and progress in UP for 2019, because without it both the 2014 and 2017 mandate will fall as fast as they rose. The higher they rise the harder they fall. They had the excuse of state government not cooperating in this election, 2 years down the line, BJP will need to show work done if they want the voters to trust them again.
So back to the start, why god why, in all of your grace did they choose Yogi?
Then it struck me, it’s not Modi and Shah who are getting blinded. It’s me. They have not taken leave of their senses. It just needed me to look a bit beyond to see the big picture.
What were the election issues which BJP fought on? The main stream media just catches Hindutva, the social media catches Hindutva & Development based on their ideological leanings. That’s too simplistic a view for such a huge state. The issues which they fought on in my humble view are as follows:
1. The goondaraj. This has been a common theme for a long time in the Hindi belt. Nitish Kumar rose on his ability to control Law & Order post Lalu. Mayawati is still remembered fondly for her ability to manage Law & Order notwithstanding all her other grandiosities. The SP Goondas on bikes teasing girls has been a common theme which BJP has reminded the people again and again. They made it one of the central themes and it has obviously stuck a cord.
2. The real communalism/casteism. Ironically it’s the BJP who has succeeded in labeling the other parties especially the congress and SP as communal or in the more commonly known term as Muslim appeasement. The PM bringing up Kabaristan etc was a big, well thought out and carefully deliberated decision. Modi is a brilliant PR person. He knows what he would say will have future repercussions and for him to go ahead with it wasn’t a desperate attempt. It was a thought out strategy. Many in the media have dismissed it as scare tactics. Well as they are the biggest users of scare tactics (e.g. before 2014 elections painting Modi as a person who eats Muslims for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner), they should know using scare tactics without it having a resonance with people is just useless. One comment can’t make people suddenly think, oh yes I have been discriminated against. It is a feeling many people have actually had. Whether it is Muslim appeasement, Yadav appeasement or something. The idea of a party not standing for a particular community or sect but being fair was very alluring.
3. Development & growth. This has been a total Modi arena where apart from Nitish Kumar, no one has been able to match him. His ability to tap into the aspirations of the young and the poor and help them imagine a New India has made him into the politician he is today.
4. The underlying current of demonetization. This is a weird one as BJP didn’t actually advertise it but there can be no doubt now that it reaped huge political benefit out of this. I suspect even BJP was sure of how voters were finally going to view it.
5. Hindutva. Finally Hindutva card. You can’t take away the Hindutva undertones from BJP even if they don’t say anything to it’s effect. That’s the power of perception & the narrative media has created.
Now looking into this if BJP feels the voters gave them votes on these priority points. To fulfill their aspirations, it has to stop Goondaraj, stop appeasement, start on development on war footing.
Now look at their options for CM candidature:
Rajnath Singh/Manoj Sinha/Dinesh Sharma: All have clean images, no corruption issues and are able administrators. So they will tick off the development perception agenda. They don’t have any aura of being tough which is the essence of being able to handle Law & Order.
Keshav Maurya: The backward caste card. Not known for his administration, though based on his poll campaign I suspect he will do just fine. Cases against him, which make his agenda on Law & Order weak.
Coming to Yogi: A firebrand is the most common term being applied to him. There is no other person in UP political scene who commands the aura that he does. I suspect he will use his firebrand image to be very tough on Law & Order. Arvind Virmani, a person who I really look upto agrees with me on this. Yogi is the most natural person to set UP’s police in action. I had earlier pegged him as the Home Minister for sure. Coming to Muslim appeasement, well I am sure we don’t need to even mention that no one will accuse him of that.
One of the biggest points is his favour was his no caste status as a Yogi. Once you attain the status of Yogi, you loose association with your caste and creed. No caste will get riled up with him being incharge. There will be no upper caste backlash to worry about if Keshav Maurya was chosen & no loss on faith in lower castes if any higher caste was chosen. It was a very brilliant answer to that question.
Development: Well he has no track record of development but what he does have is a very strong pro-poor image in his local constituency. His efforts to help all are very greatly appreciated & has been instrumental in him being elected 5 times in a row. To help with developmental agenda, Dinesh Sharma has been made his deputy.
Faced with such options Modi & Shah went for the person who they thought answers to the main aspirations people had when they voted them into power. The questions media has against him are not the same questions that most of UP has. The support he has in his area transcends religion. Real people who are viewing him with actual interactions are not worried about him inciting riots or something like that. It’s only the media or those who look at him through media eyes are worried.
Modi & Shah have looked at the problem in direct connection to people, not through Media eyes. They feel he will be able to bring such a difference in people’s life that it will overcome the temporary backlash that media will bound to have. They knew it will bring a perception issue. They will have to answer the question whether they are choosing Hindutva over development. But they also felt that he was their best bet to fulfil common man’s aspiration in the 2 year timeframe they have. They can be totally wrong about him. But this seems likely to what they must felt when they choose yogi over everyone else.
I’m not saying he his right for this job. I’m just trying to explain what might have led Modi & Shah to choose him.