After much deliberation, the BJP's 312 MLAs had what is being cited as a unanimous choice as their next chief minister: five-time Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath. The Lok Sabha MP, who is credited with engineering the BJP's victory in the 2014 general elections and this year's state assembly elections, was overlooked as a minister in the central government but managed to make it as the state's chief minister.
While his elevation shows just how important he was to the BJP's campaign in the state, it also shows just how flawed the analysis has been to believe that voters prefer development over seemingly petty issues like communalism. With Adityanath's elevation it is clear that even in 2017, being a religious hardliner won't prevent your rise to power.
Adityanath is a man who doesn't even attempt political correctness when it comes to any other community other than Hindus.
This is a man who has admitted to 're-converting' Muslims and Christians, known for fear mongering about the growth of the Muslim community in Uttar Pradesh and the country, and stoked communal passions at every possible opportunity.
Many may argue that there is a counter-balance in the form of AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi, but then the Hyderabad leader doesn't have half the power the new chief minister of the most populous state in India does.
Adityanath is a rare breed of politician, even for the BJP, in the Narendra Modi era. Even Modi cloaks what his critics call communalism, the overt provocations are fewer with more veiled references to appeal to the Hindu voters.
One can hope that Adityanath will follow this model once he is chief minister, but his past record is really no comfort. He has attempted to temper the image of the fiery leader that he has cultivated with statements about development, but it will be difficult to wipe out years of communal statements with one seemingly diplomatic campaign.
The BJP has always had hardliner Hindutva leaders who have managed to climb the rungs to the highest levels of power in the party. Remember Uma Bharti, who was accused in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition? She not only was briefly chief minister of Madhya Pradesh but is now the national water minister. Perhaps the only assumption about the Uttar Pradesh elections that many had was that in Modi's era such leaders wouldn't get so much power.
With Adityanath's elevation, all bets are now off. This is a leader who has publicly promised the Ram Mandir in the state, something even the Modi campaign of 2014 reduced to a footnote in its manifesto.
The message is now clear in the BJP: deliver the goods and no matter your past record, you will be rewarded. The elevation of Adityanath to the chief ministerial post not only had the sanction of the MLAs but reportedly also the BJP's Parliamentary board and the Prime Minister.
For a party that presents itself as a modern alternative, this is strangely very similar to the policy followed by the once all-powerful Congress party.
Featured image: PTI
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