Once again BJP has stunned the entire political opposition, and possibly some within the party too, by picking Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister (CM) of Uttar Pradesh (UP). To say it is a bold move will be an understatement because it is certainly much more than that. This move is path breaking, radical and above all a huge gamble for the party in the run up to general election in 2019. Opposition is already crying hoarse with all kinds of insinuations and accusations – both against the new CM and BJP. The central charge is that it is a move towards promoting Hindutwa in the country’s largest state by population. Lack of administrative experience, insensitivity to communal harmony, being an extreme right wing Hindu leader are some of the other reasons being advanced by the opposition to question his appointment. The fact that the opposition has been taken off guard by this development cannot be debated. In fact a lot of normal citizens too may see this as an unwise move on part of BJP. But before coming to any conclusion it may be worthwhile to dwell on this development impartially.
Yogi Adityanath has his share of some inflammatory communal statements in the past, but then many other top leaders of various political parties in India are also guilty of the same. The list includes Farooq Abdulla of National Conference, Owaisi brothers of AIMIM, Dig Vijay Singh of Congress and Azam Khan of Smajwadi Party apart from a whole lot of lesser known leaders from different parties. Some of these not so illustrious names have even made anti national statements to promote their selfish interests. Meaningless political rhetoric during electioneering to impress crowds is nothing new to our nation and it has been practiced for decades. In recent past it has become baser in content and the blame for the same has to be shared by all parties and politicians.
It is easy to target Yogi Adityanath because his chosen way of life in saffron robes makes it easy for his detractors to single him out. Now that he is occupying the chair of the Chief Minister, it will be prudent to assume that he will not resort to any such rhetoric that may affect communal relations adversely in the state. This assessment is backed by many facts in his favour. He is a popular face in UP and a five time elected Member of Parliament without a break. His constituency has a lot of minorities with whom he enjoys a good rapport. He has been one of the more active Members of Parliament with a creditable track record. It will be foolish to assume that this learned individual and a seasoned leader does not know what is expected of him in his new role. In a nation where leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Omar Abdulla, Rabri Devi, Sukhbir Singh Badal and Akhilesh Yadav are accepted in top leadership positions without a murmur based on purely dynastic considerations, it is really surprising why these champions of democracy have a problem in accepting a duly elected grass root leader who has come up the hard way.
The question is what the state can expect from him now that he is chair. Here one can find a lot of similarities between him and Mr Modi. The new CM has no personal baggage or interests to look after. That should be a big plus when it comes to fighting graft and corruption in the state, particularly at higher levels, in line with what Mr Modi has achieved at the centre. Yogi Adityanath, like Mr Modi, comes across as a strong personality who would want results and that is something which should be good for a state like UP that has suffered for decades and remains one of the more poor states in the country. He has already spelt out his priority for tackling the extremely poor law and order situation in the state. A state like UP that thrives in ‘goonda raj’ and ‘bully raj’ with dons of all denominations dotting the state needs a strong hand to bring some order to the state. To that extent the choice of Yogi Adityanath is perhaps the best since he is not likely to be afraid to crack the whip where required. The ranting of opposition leaders is a clear indication that many among them are now a worried lot. If he can prove to be a hard task master and push the lethargic state administrative machinery to deliver, the state will probably thank BJP for choosing the Yogi to lead the government. It is good to be optimistic than to be a pessimistic predicting a doom. In any case for UP, there was very little downside left after the corrupt and lawless governments of SP and BSP for last fifteen years.
As far as BJP is concerned it must have its reasons for giving the stewardship of India’s politically most important state to Yogi Adityanath. This move will certainly help the party to consolidate non Muslim vote in the state for 2019. A couple of years of visible and all inclusive development will ensure part of the Muslim vote too irrespective of what the opposition may say or do. Given Adityanath’s strong personality, it is expected that he will not flinch from taking some hard decisions when it comes to improving law and order situation in the state. The move to elevate Adityanath could be strategic too in nature. If UP is subdivided into three or four states at any time in future, BJP could be assured of a good hold in Purvanchal and Avadh regions because of Adityanath’s popularity. If the current government can do some good work in the Bundelkhand region, which has been neglected for too long, there is no reason why that too will not fall in BJP’s lap. That would only leave Western UP where BJP may have to fight with other parties for supremacy.
Contemporary India has reached great heights only a few times in its history since independence. Most of the governments have lacked courage to break the shackles and get out of their comfort zone. The vision to develop atomic energy and space sectors by Mr Nehru in the early years after 1947, the 1971 war under the leadership of Mrs Indira Gandhi that resulted in breakup of Pakistan and finally the economic reforms of the nineties under Mr Narsimhan Rao are the only three instances where the governments of the day took some path breaking decisions with astonishing results. Other than these, successive governments have moved at a snail’s pace with only incremental changes. The result has been that countries like China, South Korea and even Malaysia have left us far behind.
From the time BJP’s leadership has passed to Mr Modi and Mr Amit Shah in 2013, the party’s approach has been based on taking calculated risks with development initiatives to put India on a high growth path. They have followed the same logic when it came to fighting elections and have been successful in demolishing the combined might of the opposition on most occasions. General Patton had once said “Taking calculated risks is quite different from being rash”. BJP seems to have embraced this logic to good effect so far and elevation of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh must be seen in this light. All in all the next two years will be very eventful as a lot is likely to happen – hopefully for the better. Finally when there is choice between optimism and pessimism – why not go for the former.