Yogi, BJP and Hindutva

Eye on 2019: As Opposition searches for an identity, ruling alliance is miles ahead in fight to retain power

Yogi, BJP and Hindutva

The BJP’s thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh and the subsequent appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister has made analysts talk of the party’s pitch for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The impressive victory in Uttarakhand and the aggressiveness shown in forming governments in Goa and Manipur have virtual given the party a head start for the 2019 showdown. The Opposition parties still seem to be recovering from the stunning reversals and may take more time to regroup and firm up their strategy.

Barring few exceptions, the BJP’s aggressive march of electoral victories since 2014 has shifted the dominant contours of political landscape informing the common-sensical assumptions of masses as well as the elites. In terms of social and geographic spread, the BJP is the ruling party in 17 out of the 29 states, and has the thick support base of upper castes as well as subalterns hailing from the OBC, Dalit and tribal identity.

While there have been many post-facto analysis of the reasons underlying the BJP’s victory in one state after another, not much qualitative inferences having a bearing upon the prospective unfolding of Indian politics till 2019 have been attempted. This exercise demands attention as much would depend upon how the emergence of the BJP as the “new dominant party” of Indian politics would throw new challenges, not only to anti-BJP parties but also for the BJP to perpetuate its dominance.

This, then, leads us to deconstruct the interplay of “strategy/principle-tactics/ pragmatic” axis of the BJP, wherein the strategy/principle part signify the cultural politics of “hindutva-informed governance and development” as the “new-normal” that is pursued by shifting and flexible tactical/pragmatic means to help understand the trajectory that the dominant political players will follow till the 2019 general election.

In fact, the debate on the interplay of Hindutva, government and development in the wake of competitive invocation of caste and religious identity politics must take into account that the entire saffron outfit has a meticulous and well defined conception of both good governance and development which tends to be indispensable constitutive elements of their strategy/principle part wherein the matters of statecraft has to be mediated through the prism of Hindutva.

Their strategy/principle part as its constitutive element has two layers of long-term approach, namely the privileging of shifting societal common sense over the political, and correspondingly, the meticulous and systematic tapping into the emerging “anxiety aspirations” of the multitude of social constituencies who hail from across the caste spectrum.

This explains the BJP’s willingness to not only accommodate the majority of lower OBCs and Dalits – who feel left out by the social justice-centric regional parties like the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal etc, which are seen catering to the interests of particular subaltern caste – but also to project them as its prominent face. The deepening politicisation of the societal constituencies has resulted in these subaltern groups nurturing a massive resentment, emerging from their anxiety of losing out to others and frustration over denial of opportunity in public sphere to cater to their aspirations.

In the post-2000 era, it was the triad of popular perception, namely “the politics of Muslim appeasement, the indulgence of non-BJP parties into massive scams and their being weak and feeble in tackling the internal and external security of the country”, that made the BJP under Narendra Modi launch a new offensive against its rivals wherein all the precariousness of the people, their sufferings, their anxieties and untapped aspirations were brilliantly blamed upon the Congress and other regional parties whose “development and governance model” was projected as catering to a specific religion.

The choice of deliberate urdu words in statements like “Secularism Ka Burka” or addressing Rahul Gandhi as “Shahzada” by Modi, who otherwise uses sanskritised Hindi words in his speeches, signified a shift in the politics of Hindutva wherein the existing developmental and governance model were dubbed as partisan and catering to Muslims.

In the new developmental and governance model, labelled as ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, the word ‘Sabka’ conveyed different meaning to different sections and many perceived it as the end of the era of pro-Muslim policy formulation. Thus, the ‘other’ of ‘Sabka’ was implicit in this new model and the same was reconfirmed in the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh elections.

Tremendous faith
In this backdrop, the massive mandate the BJP got in UP, signifies that not only the subalterns – especially the lower OBCs and Dalits who are disenchanted from the secular politics of the Congress and regional parties – have invested tremendous faith in the BJP, but also they along with the upper castes are buying the new “Hindutva mediated development and governance model” of the BJP.

The selection of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of UP, who had been in the news for his aggressive Hindutva and anti-Muslim rants, seems a misfit to the recent trend of appointing low profile, organisation-centric leaders who generally hail from non-dominant castes in their respective states and lack a mass base, as has been the case in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.

Adityanath not only hails from the dominant Rajput caste, but also commands immense popularity and mass base in the state in general and Poorvanchal in particular. Yogi Adityanath’s Hindutva is more spontaneous, rooted in mundane and petty issues of everyday, wherein everything under the sun becomes a part of communal question. It’s a Hindutva that believes in instant and populist solutions.

Secondly, unlike the RSS, Adityanath as the chief of Gorakhnath Peeth – traditionally unorthodox religious institution headed by a Rajput besides being radically inclusive of the lower castes – and as patron of Hindu Yuva Vahini that has given prominent organisational position to lower castes, represents the face of Hindutva that is closer to other forms of ‘Non-Brahmin Hindutva’ like that of the Shiv Sena under Bal Thackeray. This form of Hindutva could easily talk in inclusive Ambedakarite language while othering the Muslims.

With 2019 not far away and the Opposition parties having been marginalised, there is a strong possibility of a “grand alliance” with the Congress and various regional parties. The social base of this alliance would hail primarily from among the subaltern castes and they would try to build a new inclusive approach. In that scenario, the BJP needs a figure whose populism cuts across the caste spectrum, who is as appealing to subalterns as to the upper castes, who could bring development, restore law and order, and go for targeted welfare measures and yet keep the communal pot boiling.

But the fact that without fielding a single Muslim candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and the 2017 Assembly election in UP, despite the community constituting near 20% of the state population, the BJP could get not only a thumping majority of the subaltern caste but also convince masses of its ‘development-governance’ model, signifies the arrival of Hindutva discourse as the ‘new normal’.

(The writer who travelled extensively in UP during the recent Assembly elections, is a Ph.D from Centre for Political Studies, JNU; he is associated with Peoples Pulse, Hyderabad)

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