Yogi Appointment: BJP Planning ahead to 2019?
Yogi Adityanath's appointment as CM of UP has been met with anxiety and uncertainty by media and civil society. A Hindutva hardliner, the Yogi's appointment was termed "surprising" by many. The choice, in different quarters, has been termed as having struck the right chords as well as a "costly gamble". Let us find out what the BJP saw ahead, while choosing him.
Yogi Adityanath is UP CM
The BJP contested the 2017 UP Assembly Elections without having decided on a CM. Names floated included Union minister Rajnath Singh, Bareilly MP Santosh Gangwar and Hindu hardliner Yogi Adityanath. Following its massive victory securing 40% of the total votes polled, the CM was revealed to be Yogi Adityanath. Deputy CMs, Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma were also sworn in with the Yogi.
Yogi Adityanath: The Chosen One
He was anointed the head of the Gorakhnath temple, Gorakhpur in 2014. The Yogi played a crucial role in campaigning in UP in both 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2017 state assembly polls. He is a proponent of the cow protection and Gharwapsi movements. BJP pre-poll surveys revealed that the Yogi was only second to PM Modi in popularity, making him a strong candidate.
The Winning Yogi
Adityanath has been winning Lok Sabha elections from the Gorakhpur constituency since 1998. At age 26, he became the youngest MP to do so. He secured 539,127 votes in the 2014 general elections, a figure greater than the sum of votes polled by his opponents.
What were they thinking?
BJP realizes that UP cannot be ruled from Delhi. The Yogi, a strong power centre, satisfied the dual parameters of being popular in his own right as well as furthering BJP's agenda for 2019. The Yogi can potentially draw wider Hindu numerical clout compared to a non Yadav, OBC leader. As a Hindu icon, his decisions could have more backing from the RSS.
Sharpening knives for the "Mahagathbandhan"
Looking ahead to 2019, a looming challenge over BJP's possibilities is the "Mahagathbandhan", a grand alliance of Congress, SP and BSP. BJP targets consolidation of Hindu vote bank, including the 52% of voters who did not vote the BJP, to fight this. BJP also hopes for Adityanath to further development agenda and solve issues with law and order in UP.
Could it backfire?
Some may see the appointment as deeply polarizing, alienating Muslim and liberal voters. The move could potentially send fence-sitters off to the other side. If the Yogi acts out in undesirable ways, it can tarnish BJP's "Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas" agenda. Conversely, if he delivers on his development agenda, it can bring BJP closer to victory.