After running an aggressive campaign of communal politics for 15 years in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the Hindu Yuva Vahini is at war with its founder – the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini has been instrumental in ensuring that the firebrand Hindutva leader is almost invincible in this region.
The battle began on Friday, when the Hindu Yuva Vahini – upset that its members had been ignored by the BJP in the distribution of tickets for the upcoming state polls – released its own list of six candidates who would contest against the BJP as independents. This came after the the BJP released its third list for the Uttar Pradesh polls. The party has so far declared 370 candidates for the 403-member Assembly.
The war escalated on Sunday, when Adityanath – who had earlier denied that his outfit would contest the polls against the BJP – sacked the Hindu Yuva Vahini’s Uttar Pradesh president Sunil Singh and its state general secretary Ram Laxman, minutes after they released a second list with five more candidates.
“Almost entire executive committee of Hindu Yuva Vahini is with us,” Sunil Singh told Scroll.in over phone. “Yogiji is patron of this organisation. He cannot expel us unilaterally and without any show-cause notice. This is totally illegal.” Singh also said that his outfit would announce more candidates for the Uttar Pradesh polls in coming days.
This stand-off does not augur well for the BJP’s prospects in some Assembly seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh or for Adityanath’s political future.
Theory vs practice
Speaking to reporters after the release of BJP’s manifesto at Lucknow on Saturday, Adityanath had warned the Hindu Yuva Vahini leaders of “dire consequences” if they used the “cultural organisation” for “political purposes” and fielded candidates against the BJP.
In theory, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the BJP’s ideological parent – is not a political party. It was formed in 2002 and registered under Societies Registration Act, 1860. In practice, however, it has always worked to fulfill the political ambitions of Adityanath, a five-term MP from Gorakhpur, by regularly turning small incidents into full-blown communal wars and projecting Muslims as enemies of Hindus, constantly fueling a fear psychosis.
In the beginning, the outfit’s activities were limited to the Gorakhpur district. But over the years, it has developed a strong base in several districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh including Deoria, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar and Siddharthanagar.
Its strategy of playing on divisions in the region and polarising Hindus and Muslims through its speeches paid rich electoral dividends for Adityanath. For instance, his victory margin for the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat, which stood at mere 7,339 votes in the 1999 general elections, rose to 1.42 lakh votes in 2004 and crossed the three-lakh mark in 2009 and 2014.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini achieved this by using a more aggressive version of the polarisation tactics often employed by the BJP. Adityanath has never had to depend on the RSS for support during elections or to reach out to voters, an advantage no other leader in the BJP can boast of.
In recent months, the Hindu Yuva Vahini appeared euphoric and started eyeing BJP tickets for some its prominent leaders, including Singh and Laxman. It also wanted Adityanath projected as the saffron party’s chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh.
But when the BJP decided to give a short shrift to the Gorakhpur strongman by not consulting him for ticket distribution or declaring a chief ministerial candidate, the euphoria disappeared. The youth outfit’s leaders revolted – first against the BJP and then, with Adityanath siding with the saffron party, against its founder as well.
“Workers of Hindu Yuva Vahini are upset because the BJP has insulted Yogi Adityanath and our organisation,” Singh told Scroll.in. “We are also upset because Yogi Adityanath has shown that it is the BJP, and not our organisation, which is his first preference now.”
Whether Hindu Yuva Vahini will spoil the BJP’s chances in eastern Uttar Pradesh remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that bereft of the outfit’s support, Adityanath might not be able to hold as much sway in his stronghold.