The curious turn in UP politics with Yogi-Modi stand-off

Yogi should remember the fate of Kalyan Singh who was reduced to a minion after he revolted against Vajpayee
Last Updated : 04 June 2021, 07:55 IST
Last Updated : 04 June 2021, 07:55 IST

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Even as floating dead bodies in the Ganga and unabated deaths due to acute shortage of oxygen have made headlines in Uttar Pradesh over the past two months, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath continues to be full of self-praise for his “management” of the second wave of Covid-19 while proclaiming how he was preparing the state for an impending third wave.

However, speculation is rife that the coming days may not have good news in store for the saffron-clad sadhu-turned-politician who was all set for a showdown with none other than the man who installed him on the coveted chair of UP chief minister four years back. Today, if there is a stand-off between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is he who is responsible for bringing things to such a pass.

Yogi’s “autocratic” style of functioning has often been a subject of debate in both the BJP and RSS circles, where a large chunk of the ruling party’s legislators have been raising red flags against him. The common complaint was that Yogi was largely guided by the bureaucracy while party functionaries were ignored and meted out step-motherly treatment. Mismanagement of the second corona wave was also attributable to him being surrounded by sycophants.

The complaints by partymen talked about the wide gap between tall claims and ground reality. A senior minister in the Yogi government was understood to have gone to the extent of pointing out the failure of the chief minister in ensuring the completion of a single expressway out of the several projects undertaken by the government four years ago.

Perhaps with a view to setting his development record straight, the party high command decided to air-drop a seasoned bureaucrat from Delhi. Pat came Arvind Kumar Sharma, a Gujarat–cadre IAS officer, who took premature retirement and was promptly nominated as a member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in UP. Known for his proximity to Modi with whom he had worked since 2001 when Modi became Gujarat chief minister for the first time, Sharma was understood to have been drafted for a deputy chief minister’s position in Lucknow.

With two deputy CMs – Dinesh Sharma and Keshav Prasad Maurya - already in place, it was pretty obvious that Arvind Kumar Sharma would replace one of them. It would have been understandable if the objection to this ex-bureaucrat’s induction had come from either of them. But the loudest voice of dissent came from none other than Yogi Adityanath, who apparently saw Arvind Kumar Sharma as some kind of a check on him.

Without giving it a second thought, he is stated to have flatly refused to accommodate Sharma. And that was what gave rise to a cold war that seems to have blown into an open stand-off between him and the prime minister now.

It is widely believed that Yogi chose to remain oblivious of the fact that his detractors were growing in numbers. His “yes-men” who keep hovering around him led him to believe that he had become larger than life and that he had the potential of becoming a natural successor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Perhaps that was what prompted Yogi to believe that he could have his way with anything. And that reflected not only in his refusal to accommodate Sharma but even in the introductory meeting with him.

Apart from avoiding even an appointment with Sharma, Yogi is believed to have been somewhat impolite and curt with the man who had put in his papers as secretary to the Government of India only to carry out the wishes of the prime minister who wanted him as his pointsman in Lucknow.

Initially, the prime minister’s wishes were conveyed to Yogi by UP Governor Anandiben Patel, who air-dashed to Lucknow after cutting short her visit to Bhopal, where she holds the dual charge of Madhya Pradesh as well. But after the hour-long meeting, which made it loud and clear that Yogi was a hard nut to crack, some in the top brass of the RSS and BJP were activated.

RSS national deputy chief Dattatreya Hosabale was the first to arrive in Lucknow, where he spent three days holding parleys with a host of UP ministers, legislators and senior BJP as well as RSS functionaries to gather feedback on Yogi and his style of working. It is another matter that Yogi neither has his roots in the RSS nor has any close or old association with the BJP. He grew out of his private outfit called the Hindu Yuva Vahini, which often openly opposed the BJP in the past.

Close on the heels of Hosabale came two very senior ruling party leaders - B.L. Santhosh and Radha Mohan Singh – who also carried out the same exercise as the RSS bigwig. They also met Yogi, who is believed to have stuck to his guns as far as Sharma was concerned.

With all three back in Delhi on Thursday, deliberations have already begun at the highest level to take the final call on Uttar Pradesh. If Yogi remains adamant about not taking Sharma on board as deputy chief minister, Prime Minister Modi is also firm about ensuring compliance with his wishes.

Sharma’s profile has grown manifold in the five months that he has been in Lucknow since he was nominated an MLC. And that is thanks to none other than Yogi Adityanath’s visibly immature handling of the issue. Any seasoned politician would have got over the Sharma episode as a routine exercise that could have gone casually noticed and without multiple and repeated headlines that he has been getting because of Yogi’s resistance.

How far will Yogi be able to defy Modi may be a million-dollar question. But it was also unthinkable that Modi would succumb to the defiance by a loud-mouthed rabble-rouser chief minister, simply because of the political constraints on account of the impending state elections barely eight months away.

Only if Yogi had cared to look back into the pages of recent history, perhaps he could have avoided the current misadventure. After all who does not know the fate of Kalyan Singh, who got virtually reduced to a minion after he revolted as UP chief minister against then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. That too when Kalyan Singh was a much bigger name than what Yogi is today and Modi is far too different from Vajpayee when it comes to dealing with dissent or defiance.

Those arguing in favour of the saffron-clad Yogi describe him as “invincible” simply because he is seen as the biggest Hindutva icon, who fits most ideally into the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ dream of the RSS. However, when it comes to scoring on the question of actually fulfilling the dreams that the RSS had nurtured over the decades - Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370, or abolition of ‘triple talaq’ – would Yogi stand anywhere close to a Narendra Modi who is credited with each of those?

The next few days would bring out the answer to these riddles, thereby determining not only the political destiny of Uttar Pradesh but also the political clout enjoyed by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath as also the political stature and strength of prime minister Narendra Modi.

(The writer is a Lucknow-based senior journalist and political commentator)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

Published 04 June 2021, 07:55 IST

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