UP Polls: Will Mathura help BJP's electoral design?

UP Polls: Will Mathura help serve BJP's electoral designs?

With farmers' agitation reuniting Jats and Muslims in western UP, the Sangh Parivar is trying to consolidate other Hindu castes in the region

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Credit: AFP Photo

Is the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) eyeing the Mathura issue to serve its political designs in the forthcoming 2022 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh?

Recently a wing of the Hindu Mahasabha announced its decision to march down to the Idgah Masjid located in the precincts of the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple area in Mathura, and where it has stood for four centuries. The Hindu Mahasabha announced it would install an idol of Lord Krishna inside the mosque that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had built, allegedly after the demolition of a temple, which had marked the birthplace of Lord Krishna.

What compounded this announcement was a sudden tweet by UP's Deputy Chief Minister, Keshav Prasad Maurya. The tweet put an official stamp on the ruling party's apparent bid to keep religion at the centrestage of their politics in the country's most populous state. "Ayodhya Kashi bhavya nirmaan jaari hai, ab Mathura ki taiyari hai (temple constructions are on in Ayodhya and Kashi, now its Mathura's turn)," was the crisp tweet that Maurya issued on Wednesday. He followed this up in his tweet with religious slogans of "Jai Shree Ram, Jai Shiv-Shambhoo and Jai Shri Radhey-Krishna", which are salutations to the three most revered gods in the Hindu pantheon - Ram, Shiva and Krishna.

Political analysts see this as a move aimed at creating a Hindu-Muslim divide that helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sweep three elections in UP - in 2014, 2017 and 2019. However, the ongoing farmers' agitation in western UP has restored amity between the Hindus and Muslims in the region, becoming a cause of worry for the ruling party. No wonder the Hindu Mahasabha chose to rake up the Mathura issue. 

Quite strategically, the date selected by the outfit was December 6, which is a reminder of the demolition of the 16th Century Babri Masjid in 1992. The proposed march looks like a replay of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)'s Ayodhya movement that began in the same manner in the early 1980s. However, the difference is that unlike Ayodhya, where the Babri Mosque stood in place of a temple, the temple and mosque have coexisted for centuries in Mathura and Kashi, which figure prominently in the VHP's list of shrines it has wanted to be restored entirely to Hindus.

Deputy CM Maurya's tweet kicked up a storm, which was precisely what the ruling party had desired. Much of it looked stage-managed and reflected the unwritten coordination between the different wings of the Sangh Parivar. The Hindu Mahasabha raised the pitch on the Mathura issue; the UP government promptly responded by clamping Section 144 and banning the assembly of more than four persons. A flag march by the armed police followed. Subsequently, a tweet from none other than the state's deputy chief minister propelled the entire opposition of the state to train their guns on him.

The fact is that Maurya went ahead with such an explosive tweet even though Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat had declared quite explicitly that Mathura and Kashi were not on the Sangh Parivar's agenda. Bhagwat expressed his view on the subject shortly after the Supreme Court gave its verdict in November 2019, favouring the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Political analysts believe this is the Sangh Parivar playbook to pave Hindu polarization. The BJP leadership and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath maybe indulging in the loud talk on "development", but deep down, they play up their old tried and tested card of the religious divide.

The BJP leadership could find it challenging to stoke a divide between the reunited Jats and Muslims in western UP. The farmers' agitation has brought the two communities under a common umbrella once again. Therefore, the Sangh Parivar seems to be concentrating on influencing other Hindu castes in the region. Their visible effort is to win them over by raising the bogey of "Hindu khatre mein hain (Hindus are in danger)".

As the polls draw near, there is no doubt the BJP will move heaven and earth to achieve their goal. Whether they can succeed once again, only time will tell.

(The writer is a journalist based in Lucknow)

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