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Mainstream, VOL LV No 14 New Delhi March 25, 2017

Time to Meet the Grim Challenge

Saturday 25 March 2017, by SC


As one writes these lines, twelve days have passed since March 11, when the results of the five State Assembly elections came out. Till date one has not come across any detailed analysis of what went wrong in UP, the most populous State of the country, that the ruling party at the Centre with its allies was able to garner as many as 325 seats in the 403-member House there despite the absence of any perceptible wave among the public at large.

One is not qualified to undertake that task. But one can offer some inputs based on what one has heard and read. But before doing so one must make a dispassionate submission: the BJP has doubtless decisively won in two States that went to the polls—UP and Uttarakhand dislodging from power the Samajwadi Party in one State (UP) and the Congress in the other (Uttarakhand). Of the remaining three States, the Congress has emerged victorious in Punjab leaving the other parties way behind and overthrowing the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine that was in power for 10 years, winning 77 seats (with a vote-share of 38.5 per cent) out of 117 whereas the Akali Dal bagged 15 seats (25.3 per cent votes) and its ally, the BJP, three seats (5.3 per cent votes) even as the AAP secured 20 seats (23.8 per cent votes). The Congress also won the largest number of seats in Manipur 28 (35.1 per cent vote-share) out of 60 seats and Goa 17 (28.4 per cent vote-share) out of 40 seats even though the BJP received more votes than the Congress in both Manipur (36.3 per cent as against 35.1 per cent) and Goa (32.5 per cent as against 28.4 per cent).

So BJP President Amit Shah’s wild dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat as yet remains only on paper. Indeed the idea has failed to take any major stride towards fulfilment. (He has not yet repeated the slogan after the poll outcome.)

However, the allegation from BSP supremo Mayawati about the UP results cannot be taken lightly: she has charged that this time in particular the EVM machines were tampered with in a big way to culminate in the kind of victory the BJP was able to register. This was brilliantly brought out in the Rajya Sabha by BSP member Satish Chandra Mishra who quoted a Supreme Court verdict to assert that only “EVMs with VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trail) system ensure accuracy of the voting” and that “‘paper trail’ is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections”.

These assertions and charges apart, what is essential to understand is this: how could the BJP win in a majority of the Muslim-dominated constituencies (88) whereas the SP-Congress won only in 24 and the BSP in seven of such seats? Secondly, the SP-Congress and BSP had done fairly well in Western UP but this was not reflected in the final outcome; why?

Now the CMs of all the States have been appointed. Captain Amarinder Singh heads the Congress Government in Punjab, whereas Goa is headed by the BJP’s Manohar Parrikar, and Manipur by ex-Congress Minister N. Biren Singh (now in the BJP). Uttarakhand is headed by an RSS pracharak, Trivendra Singh Rawat. But it is UP where the choice of the CM has attracted maximum attention: the person nominated for the post is 44-year-old Hindutva firebrand, Yogi Adityanath, who heads the 15-year-old Hindu Yuva Vahini. Born Ajay Singh Bisht in 1972, he was adopted by Mahant Avaidyanath of the powerful Gorakhnath Peeth in Gorakhpur in 1994. On Avaidyanath’s demise he inherited the Peeth and succeeded his mentor as the Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur for five terms since 1998. In 2007 Adityanath compared Shah Rukh Khan to Hafiz Saeed, the face of Islamist terror residing in Pakistan, and in 2015 he declared that those opposed to Surya Namaskar could leave for Pakistan. While Adityanath is the CM two Deputy CMs have been appointed—BJP State President Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dr Dinesh Sharma, the Lucknow Mayor; the three have been chosen to maintain the caste-balance: Adityanath is a Thakur, Maurya an OBC and Sharma a Brahmin.

The choice as the CM of Yogi Adityanath—perhaps the reward for his role in ensuring the BJP’s spectacular success in Eastern UP—has been aptly described as “an odious and ominous development” by President of CPR Delhi Pratap Bhanu Mehta who notes:

“It is an odious choice because the BJP has picked someone who is widely regarded as the single most divisive, abusive, polarising figure in UP politics... It is an ominous development because it sends as clear a signal as it is possible to send at this time; the already accomplished political fact of the marginalisation of minorities in UP and elsewhere will now be translated into a programme of their cultural, social and symbolic subordination.”

He further explains:

“.. what is striking about Adityanath’s political career so far is that there is not even a whiff of acknowledgement that he might need to speak to something larger, acknowledge civility, or stay away from fear-mongering and the legitimisation of violence. There is nothing else here, other then a tissue of resentment and hate...”

And Gandhiji’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi writes in The Indian Express today (quoting Narendra Modi’s words after the final results of the UP polls: “When we mark 75 years of freedom in 2022, we should have made an India that will make Gandhiji, Sardar Patel and Babasaheb Ambedkar proud”):

“Whom would the choice (of Adityanath as the UP CM) delight or make proud? Not Gandhi or Patel or Ambedkar. They would be aghast.”

Adityanath and his Hindu brigade are already at work. It is time to meet the grim challenge before us unitedly and with all the strength at our command.

March 23 S.C.

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