Opinion: It was useful when Modi told Yogi, is the talk of distance from RSS-BJP meaningless?

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
7 Min Read

Author: Shashank Chaudhary, Sanjay Kumar Pandey and David J. gelner
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week said that Congress and Samajwadi Party should learn from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath 'where to use bulldozers and where not'. The PM said this while addressing an election rally in Barabanki near Lucknow. One thing which is hot in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections is Yogi Adityanath's demand to hold 'rallies' not only in UP but in the entire country, from Gujarat to Karnataka, from Maharashtra to Bengal. He has held around 150 rallies in the last six weeks. This is a big change from 2017, when Yogi became UP CM and there were whispers among top BJP leaders that his relations with the party had soured. In 2021, Modi was photographed strolling in Varanasi and placing his hand on Yogi's shoulder. Next year Modi gave the slogan 'UP+Yogi=Uyogi'. This year, he said it was a 'great privilege' to have his constituency in Yogi's state. Talking about the present, Modi's bulldozer statement is a reply to Akhilesh's allegation that Yogi is 'just a bulldozer baba'. Yogi and his supporters did not delay in accepting this label.

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Hindu Mahasabha and RSS

Two distinct streams of Hindutva in India have clashed for decades: the Hindu Mahasabha, from which Yogi and his predecessors, the abbots, come, and the somewhat moderate Hindu RSS, from which the young Modi began his career. The Mahasabha had maintained distance from the Sangh till 1991, two decades after Modi joined the RSS as a full-time worker. In the same year, Mahant Avaidyanath, one of the prominent leaders of the Mahasabha, started working with the BJP. Yet when the BJP formed the government in Delhi in 2014, Yogi maintained distance from the party and formed his own 'Hindu Yuva Vahini', equivalent to the RSS.

Now let's talk about this election season. At the national level, the BJP has changed its message, but the party's campaign in UP has focused on Yogi's leadership, including his role in the Ram Temple issue. A party worker said that Yogi's campaign started strategically from Mathura, where the BJP put the responsibility of motivating the voters on him.

'Will Yogi be removed in 2 months?' Adityanath got angry on Kejriwal's claim, Modi also gave this answer

law and order trump card

Yogi has promised to 'declare the state mafia free' soon after the election results are announced on June 4. The disrobing of Draupadi in the Mahabharata has been his favourite metaphor to ridicule SP's Azam Khan, Atiq Ahmad and Akhilesh. He claims that when looting and corruption were at their peak in UP, all of them were active criminals like Dushasan and Duryodhan or closed their eyes like blind Kaka Raja Dhritarashtra.

Yogi's victory strategy is a promise to make Uttar Pradesh safe. All this is changing the attitude of voters in the state. In 2019, most voters were excited by national issues including Balakot and Pulwama. This time local issues are at the forefront. As one voter from western UP said, 'Yogi is essential' for UP.

Promising to free UP from mafia and mosquitoes, Yogi is claiming a new curfew free, riot free UP in seven years. He insists that those who challenge the government and administration will be punished, they may end up in jail later but will end up in hell first. His promises seem to be working and BJP voters are supporting him strongly, Bulldozer Baba always gives solutions to problems.

support in every category

Not only among the poor and less educated people we spoke to across the state, but also among the affluent class, including educated women, there is a surprising consensus that the Yogi government provides better administration and security. People everywhere are excited, sisters and daughters are safe, there is a feeling of security and you can go out at any time at night. These idioms, taken straight from Yogi's dictionary, have now become everyday things.

After PM Modi, Yogi has the highest demand in Punjab, Sunil Jakhar made this demand by writing a letter.
even further in development

The effect of Yogi's increasing emphasis on development is also visible. UP's annual global investors conference and the agreement to pay for sugarcane within 15 days have reduced the anti-incumbency anger arising from rising inflation and unemployment. Yogi has learned the vocabulary of development from his guru Modi and has used acronyms like CCC (Culture, Communication and Commerce) and TTP (Talent, Tradition and Potential) very effectively.

It has also learnt to walk the tightrope between the Mahasabha of yesterday and the Hindutva of today. Note also that Yogi has disbanded the Hindu Yuva Vahini in 2022. In a recent tweet, he had written that Modi is the “greatest leader” of 140 crore Indians and our guardian. The BJP will need both Modi and Yogi to be effective in UP and perhaps nationally as well. As one man in Gorakhpur said, “The BJP must learn to keep two swords in one sheath.”

Chaturvedi is at Nirma University, Ahmedabad; Pandey JNU are in; And Gellner is at Oxford University.

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