All political parties have fetishes.
Congress has the Gandhi family, AAP has ‘anshan’ (hunger strike), CPI(M) has its denial of the need to evolve with the times, and the Bharatiya Janata Party has the Congress. In the three and a half years since it stormed into power, the BJP has kickstarted dozens of initiatives, only to abandon them high and dry, and has hatched scores of narratives in an attempt to sway public opinion, the greatest of which is ‘vikaas’ and ‘congress mukt bharat’.
Speaking recently in Himachal Pradesh, Prime Minister Modi said corruption is Congress’s only identity. Last month, similarly, when he spoke in Karnataka, Modi had heavily criticized the Congress. In Gujarat, amid a hotly contested state election, the BJP has, true to its colours, chosen to polarize public opinion along communal lines by accusing Congress of harbouring terrorists in the country. There is a pattern here, an irresistible fetish that one cannot and should not miss.
Among the alternatives at the BJP’s disposal, for electoral success, two are the most reliable- communal polarisation, and ‘congress mukt bharat’. Time and again, Modi and his ‘comrades’ have raked up the congress’s shabby, corrupt record in order to justify their own palpable inability to fulfill the ‘acche din’ promise, as if telling the Indian voter that rhetoric is all that they deserve, and that all of BJP’s crimes are absolved by the Congress’s cardinal sins and total lack of worth.
In September this year, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said “Dynasty is Nasty”, and that it cannot go with democracy. Congress, with its Monarchical structure, and a (in)famous Royal Family that elicits Godlike devotion was the obvious target, the sitting duck. But, it is by no means the only dynasty at work in the murky waters of Indian Politics. From the Yadavs of UP and Bihar to Karunanidhi and MK Stalin down south, political dynasties have become a defining trait of the young and naive Indian democracy, and in Vasundhara Raje and Jayant Sinha, among many others, the BJP contributes quite generously to dynastic politics.
The BJP Dynasts
38 of its 281 current Lok Sabha MPs and 9 Rajya MPs (of 56) come from strong political lineages. In the UPA-2, Congress had 58 dynasts, and in the present Rajya Sabha, it also happens to possess, like the BJP, 9 dynasts. Among the more prominent of these ‘dynasts’ are Dushyant Singh, MP from Dhaulpur- a family safe seat akin to the Gandhi family’s Amethi-that his mother and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje represented for several years, and Abhishek Singh, son of current Chattisgarh CM Raman Singh. Similarly, Union minister Jayant Sinha, son of senior BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha and Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj Singh, UP MLA and state general secretary are making rapid inroads into the political wilderness. Another case in point and a very strong one at that is that of former Maharashtra deputy CM Late Gopinath Munde and prominent BJP youth leader (the heir apparent of AB Vajpayee, according to some) Late Pramod Mahajan. Munde’s daughters, Pritam-MP from her father’s constituency, Beed is in the Lok Sabha while Pankaja is a senior minister in Devendra Fadnavis’s cabinet. Poonam Mahajan, Munde’s niece and daughter of Pramod Mahajan, is also a Lok Sabha MP and BJP youth wing’s current president.
Here is the full list of BJP dynasts in the Lok Sabha
One might miss these mostly first time MPs, but to ignore BJP’s very own Gandhis-Union Minister for Woman and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi and her Son, General Secretary and Lok Sabha MP, Varun Gandhi-would require a degree of ‘Bhakti’, observed only scarcely outside the Sanghi bubble.
Yet, when it comes to BJP dynasts, Vasundhara Raje takes the cake. Hands down. Raje’s sister Yashodhara Raje is a Madhya Pradesh minister and her late mother, Vijayaraje Scindia was an MP and a founding member of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Raje-Scindia dynasty transcends party lines. Raje’s brother, late Madhavrao Scindia was a prominent Congress leader, and his son, Jyotiraditya Scindia is the current Congress Lok Sabha chief whip.
Thus, when Vice President Mr Naidu says, and rightly so, that ‘dynasty in a democracy is nasty’, his jibe is collectively centred at all parties, regional and national, rights from the Yadavs to the Raje-Scindias and the Gandhis. The sad part though is that Mr Naidu desires only to attack the Congress Gandhi’s’, failing to acknowledge his own ‘cadre-based’ party’s rapid entanglement with dynastic politics.
The other tactic for the electoral success, of course, is communal polarisation. The first instance of communal polarisation, in its long, conflict-ridden history was LK Advani’s rath yatra, and the ensuing demolition of the Babri Masjid, and massive loss of life and property. It was here, in its exploitation of religious sentiments, that brought BJP its first cake of electoral success. From two seats in the Lok Sabha in the 1984 elections, BJP went on to capture 85 seats in the 1989 elections. The tally further increased in 1991, at the pinnacle of monstrous controversy, to 120. This rabble-rousing continued, albeit on a smaller scale, throughout the 90s, attaining fruition in the most despicable manner possible, with the 2002 Gujarat riots. Shortly after what was arguably a genocide, our current Prime Minister retained power as Gujarat CM, with an overwhelming mandate.
Thus, it is not surprising in the least that BJP, time and again, resorts to the use of this massive trump card. But a lot has changed since 2002. Polarisation now occurs digitally, a disturbing ‘revolution’ unfolding on electronic screens, in the most subtle yet sinister manner. The infamous BJP IT cell, accused time and again of circulating fake news, and doctored videos in an attempt to sway public opinion and polarise religious sentiments, is a ruthless rabble-rousing machinery, very chillingly efficient.
The Rise and Rise of Yogi Adityanath
One state where this polarisation is starkly visible, and arguably the most efficient, is Uttar Pradesh. Even while contesting the elections, as a harbinger of ‘Vikaas’, the ruling party, and especially our much revered PM, didn’t fail to colour the election, in communal hues. The elections were a mere beginning. What upset many and shocked others were the ‘chosen’ one. Little did the masses that poured in to vote for ‘vikaas’ realize what fate awaited them. With Yogi Adityanath at the helm, the ‘Hindutva’ mission was only too clearly visible. Adityanath, the high priest of the Gorakhpur Mutt and the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a militant Hindu nationalist organization, wields much influence through his ‘yogic’ credentials, and political lineage,(he’s the political and spiritual heir to Mahant Avaidyanath, the former High Priest of the Mutt) that he, long before controlling the political reins of the state, has used to cultivate hatred for Muslims in what is India’s very own variant of fascism. His priorities are sorted-as was clearly proved, albeit tragically at Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, Yogi’s very own city.
Saffronisation of education, disowning of the Taj Mahal, shutting down of abattoirs and Anti-Romeo squads are all way more important than improving the disastrous condition of UP health industry.
If BJP is a chillingly efficient, and maliciously cunning machine, Yogi Adityanath is it most virulent cog. What BJP very cleverly hides, Yogi spews out in the open, relentlessly and with no fear. He is the unruly, coarse ideologue in a party of committed pragmatists. His is a political rhetoric, not just of electoral success, but also of supreme, ideological justice. From Love Jihad and Ghar Wapsi to banning slaughterhouses, Yogi rouses issues and implements measures that other BJP leaders, even the ones at the centre, are ambiguous in treatment, and sluggish in response. Yogi has a mission, and he knows not, how to stop.
After its very shameful treatment of the Taj Mahal, the UP government has now declared Vrindavan and Barsana as pilgrimage sites, in an attempt to win over Hindu hearts and votes, as the state approaches civic elections. The declaration comes with a ban on the sale of Liquor and Meat in the ‘tirth stahls’, with a promise to relocate the traders of these commodities. Meanwhile, his promises of making UP ‘Gaddha Mukt’ (Pothole free) and crime and corruption free have turned out to be instances of BJP’s oft-repeated rhetoric. From Lucknow to the Prime Minister’s constituency, Varanasi and Adityanath’s Gorakhpur, the roads across the state are in tatters. June 15, the deadline that Yogi proposed for fixing of the potholes, has long elapsed. The potholes meanwhile, keep getting bigger.
Having taken ‘saffronisation’ too literally, Yogi had buses and the CM’s office painted saffron, which is symbolic, quite eerily of the redesigning of textbooks and disowning of monuments of heritage, and renaming of cities and railway stations-an entire process underway to culturally redefine and symbolically hegemonize the very idea of ‘Bharat’. As if this wasn’t enough, the UP government has proposed to build a 100-metre Ram statue on the banks of the Sarayu river in Ayodhya. While the statue is expected to boost tourism, the funds necessary for construction of the same, amount to crores and can be, without doubt, put to much greater use in the shabby condition of the health sector in the state. This reinforcement of symbols, in an attempt to redefine a culture, are heavily reminiscent of Mao’s China, and the notoriety of its ‘cultural revolution’, an analogy I am sure, that the BJP would much despise of, but which nonetheless, is correct.
A possible divide?
Thus are the two extremes of the BJP. At one end is absolute megalomania, inhabited by the likes of Vasundhara Raje, whose recent gagging of the media is a glaringly valid case on point and Narendra Modi, whose caesarian ambition and Indira-like authority have metamorphosed a raging ideologue-pretty much like Yogi-of his Gujarat days to a cunning, calculating demagogue. On the other end is Yogi, an uncompromising, firebrand ideologue, the very product that the RSS so lustfully fantasizes about when it trains young kids in Hindu philosophy and ‘karseva’. Yogi is the perfect anathema to Modi’s megalomania- the fanatical, devoted ideologue who bows only to his fanaticism; a saffron-clad monk to Modi’s simple yet charmingly Kurta clad ‘Motabhai’ (Elder brother in Gujarati); an austere swadeshi to Modi’s neoliberal reformer; a religious leader to Modi’s personality cult.
The RSS and the BJP, have time and again, had differences. During NDA-1, in the early 2000s, the rift was quite clear because Vajpayee, wouldn’t conform. He was a meat-eating dog lover, a statesman who heard both sides, whose brand of Hindutva was much softer. His numerous attempts at consolidating Pakistan, and finding a peaceful, political solution to Kashmir, enraged many a jingoist, whose thought processes were limited to increased military deployment in the valley. Vajpayee had bitterly condemned Modi following the Godhra riots and wanted him gone. Thus had started, a divide that threatened to tear the party apart. The fanatics in the party, Advani included, sided with Modi, and one can argue, were possibly much impressed by his super popularity. After the loss in 2004, the divide grew starker. Maybe Vajpayee felt threatened of Modi, for here was an ambitious demagogue, who fit into RSS’s calculations, much better- a much younger, more firebrand leader, a personality cult addicted to authority, who elicits widespread devotion-the perfect, jingoistic populist. Modi provided energy and cunning to the senile and virulent Advani, and the two quickly sided together, building slowly, yet surely a concrete opposition to the modernist statesman that was Vajpayee. Vajpayee, similarly, found his heir apparent in Pramod Mahajan, a charismatic, media-savvy youth leader, whose calm and charm, won many a heart in the Indian media. For more than two years, Vajpayee was winning. BJP moved away from RSS rapidly, becoming less virulent and much more presentable in the process. Then, in 2006 Mahajan was shot dead by his brother. Vajpayee, soon thereafter, fell prey to senility. Eight years later, what started in 2002, attained fruition. A fanatic RSS devotee was now the PM.
But things soon started changing. Modi demonstrated perfectly that his devotion lies solely to power, and thus began numerous differences between BJP and its parent organization, the RSS. Modi has been subtle with his ‘cultural revolution’, emphasizing more on the economy. His neoliberal credentials have caused quite a stir in the RSS, whose anti-west, anti-globalization stance is well known. By focussing more on the economy, Modi has only barely sought to culturally redefine anything directly, except when campaigning. His speeches reek of long-winded optimism, and rhetoric, and more often than not, his silence and not his speeches validate his views. More than attempting to push hardcore Hindutva as actively as the RSS would like him to, Modi has unhaltingly satisfied his own hunger for power and total authority. He has undermined the media and stifled dissent-he likes no questions. That Modi is a megalomaniac whose first devotion is to himself, troubles the RSS greatly. The divide was evident in the recent Jay Shah controversy, where RSS seemed clearly disinterested in defending the son of the BJP president. The RSS has a clear vision-Akhand Bharat. But with the likes of Modi and Shah, the only vision seems to be that of absolute authority and prolonged period of power.
Akin to Modi’s own rise under Vajpayee is the rise of Yogi Adityanath. That the RSS sees a better future in this saffron-clad, venomous monk than a charmer who does nobody’s bidding, is pretty evident and that Yogi, along with Shah extensively attempted to polarise the public opinion and expand party base in Kerala, is a testimony to Yogi’s growing acceptance as Modi’s successor and the new, fearless Hindutva icon.
As of now, there are only minor cracks, but who is to say that a divide might not emerge in the next 18 months? After the massive failure of Modi as ‘the economic reformer’, the BJP has abandoned the “acche din” chant and has let go of the evasive Vikaas. With 2019 fast approaching, BJP has returned to full throttle communal polarisation, a digression that might cost Modi dearly, lest BJP lose the general elections. Afterall, if Hindutva is what actually matters, isn’t Adityanath a much better proponent of it, than Modi? Because, let’s admit it, the ones who voted Modi to power in 2014, voted for him despite knowing his stained past, for they truly hoped that his economic promises would matter more to Modi than Hindutva. Now, when the BJP has changed tracks, why should the middle class believe in Modi for any longer? Hasn’t he absolutely, disastrously failed to live up to his economic promises? If one needs Hindutva, one would rather vote for Adityanath, because then, he would not have to be voted for,‘despite’ his hate-mongering, he would be voted for, ‘because’ of his hate mongering.
If this desperation pays off, and BJP retains power, all might just be well. ‘Vikaas’ might stage a comeback, accompanied by similar, more attractive rhetoric, but if it fails and Modi is ousted, RSS’s lack of trust in Modi would have a concrete backing, and before long, another political coup might change the entire dynamics of power inside the party. If ‘vikaas’ fails, even after taking refuge in Hindutva, the BJP would soon alienate itself from Modi and Shah’s megalomania, and immerse itself further into hardcore Hindutva. When that happens, Yogi Adityanath, without doubt, would be the go-to man.
One wonders now, whether by choosing Yogi to lead UP, Modi might just have started digging an early political grave for himself.
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