Inside BJP

Back to basics: With Adityanath in UP, the BJP has its eyes set on Gujarat, Karnataka and Himachal

As Congress implodes, the BJP is looking ahead to the next round of polls.

The appointment of the 44-year-old Gorakhpur Lok Sabha Member of Parliament Yogi Adityanath as the new Uttar Pradesh chief minister is a reaffirmation that the communal card blatantly pushed by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the recent Assembly polls will continue to be the centrepiece of its campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha election and the new state government’s agenda.

Falling back on its hardcore Hindutva agenda in the recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the BJP had especially deployed Yogi Adityanath as its star campaigner because his polarising and venom-spewing speeches had proved to be a sure crowd-puller.

While there is no doubt that the BJP owes its outstanding electoral performance in Uttar Pradesh to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s undiminished popularity, Adityanath’s contribution cannot be ignored either. He played no less a significant role in papering over caste divisions and consolidating the Hindu vote in favour of the BJP in these elections. It was payback time now and Adityanath has been more than adequately rewarded by the party.

In fact, the BJP president Amit Shah has always favoured Adityanath and was keen that he should be appointed president of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. However, since the BJP was consciously wooing the non-Yadav backward classes, it was compelled to appoint Keshav Prasad Maurya to this post. Though the BJP has always been wary of Adityanath because of his brash behavior and a tendency to chart an independent path, Shah was apparently convinced that the minority-bashing Gorakhpur MP would prove useful in the Uttar Pradesh elections. Shah also managed to get the backing of its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, despite the fact that it had strong reservations about Adityanath’s style of functioning.

Looking ahead

Now that the BJP has tasted success in the Hindi heartland state, the party is convinced that Adityanath’s brand of militant Hindutva is the way forward. To begin with, the BJP hopes the new chief minister’s appointment will help polarise the electorate in its favour in the next round of Assembly polls in Gujarat, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh.

Having set the tone first in its election poll campaign and in Lucknow on Saturday, it is clear that the BJP’s tried and tested Hindutva agenda will be its chief calling card in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. With the prime minister and the BJP president taking the lead in this direction, as was evident from their overtly communal speeches, the BJP is no longer afraid to advertise its intentions.

“Yogi Adityanath’s appointment only shows the emperor has no clothes. It is the logical conclusion of the prime minister’s kabristan-shamshan remark and Amit Shah’s reference to Kasab in their election speeches,” remarked Manoj Jha, spokesperson, Rashtriya Janata Dal.

In Lucknow, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu and Yogi Adityanath were quick to stress on Saturday that the BJP state government in Uttar Pradesh will be guided by Modi’s dictum “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas (collective effort, inclusive growth). But the new chief minister’s persona belies such assurances. With Adityanath at the helm, the electorate will expect him to deliver on the election promise to construct a Ram Temple at Ayodhya, close down slaughter houses and constitute anti-Romeo squads and generally take other steps specifically targeted at the minorities.

Deft social engineering

Having indicated that it will persist with the politics of polarisation, the BJP has not overlooked a crucial fact that its deft social engineering – consolidation of the non-Yadav backward classes and the unstinted support of the upper castes – also played a key role in powering it to victory in the assembly polls.

Consequently, it took care to appoint Keshav Prasad Maurya and Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma as deputy chief ministers. Having appointed Yogi Adityanath, a Thakur, as chief minister, the BJP leadership felt it was necessary to accommodate a backward class leader (Maurya) and a Brahmin (Sharma) as a balancing act and also to reflect the rainbow social coalition it stitched together in the recent elections.

Putting together this team was obviously not an easy task as the BJP took a week to take these decisions. Having got an overwhelming mandate in the Assembly polls, there was a long list of chief ministerial hopefuls and there was a fear that the chief minister’s appointment could result in internal dissension.

But now that the party has a triumvirate in place, the power play and the equations among the three leaders will be under the scanner in the coming days. Will they succeed in establishing a harmonious working relationship or will it lead to a bitter tug-of-war as each leader attempts to forge ahead of the others? Having won the state handsomely, the BJP’s next big challenge is to see that the new government functions smoothly and delivers on its promises. But this could well prove to be a tough call.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

How sustainable farming practices can secure India's food for the future

India is home to 15% of the world’s undernourished population.

Food security is a pressing problem in India and in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), it is estimated that over 190 million people go hungry every day in the country.

Evidence for India’s food challenge can be found in the fact that the yield per hectare of rice, one of India’s principal crops, is 2177 kgs per hectare, lagging behind countries such as China and Brazil that have yield rates of 4263 kgs/hectare and 3265 kgs/hectare respectively. The cereal yield per hectare in the country is also 2,981 kgs per hectare, lagging far behind countries such as China, Japan and the US.

The slow growth of agricultural production in India can be attributed to an inefficient rural transport system, lack of awareness about the treatment of crops, limited access to modern farming technology and the shrinking agricultural land due to urbanization. Add to that, an irregular monsoon and the fact that 63% of agricultural land is dependent on rainfall further increase the difficulties we face.

Despite these odds, there is huge potential for India to increase its agricultural productivity to meet the food requirements of its growing population.

The good news is that experience in India and other countries shows that the adoption of sustainable farming practices can increase both productivity and reduce ecological harm.

Sustainable agriculture techniques enable higher resource efficiency – they help produce greater agricultural output while using lesser land, water and energy, ensuring profitability for the farmer. These essentially include methods that, among other things, protect and enhance the crops and the soil, improve water absorption and use efficient seed treatments. While Indian farmers have traditionally followed these principles, new technology now makes them more effective.

For example, for soil enhancement, certified biodegradable mulch films are now available. A mulch film is a layer of protective material applied to soil to conserve moisture and fertility. Most mulch films used in agriculture today are made of polyethylene (PE), which has the unwanted overhead of disposal. It is a labour intensive and time-consuming process to remove the PE mulch film after usage. If not done, it affects soil quality and hence, crop yield. An independently certified biodegradable mulch film, on the other hand, is directly absorbed by the microorganisms in the soil. It conserves the soil properties, eliminates soil contamination, and saves the labor cost that comes with PE mulch films.

The other perpetual challenge for India’s farms is the availability of water. Many food crops like rice and sugarcane have a high-water requirement. In a country like India, where majority of the agricultural land is rain-fed, low rainfall years can wreak havoc for crops and cause a slew of other problems - a surge in crop prices and a reduction in access to essential food items. Again, Indian farmers have long experience in water conservation that can now be enhanced through technology.

Seeds can now be treated with enhancements that help them improve their root systems. This leads to more efficient water absorption.

In addition to soil and water management, the third big factor, better seed treatment, can also significantly improve crop health and boost productivity. These solutions include application of fungicides and insecticides that protect the seed from unwanted fungi and parasites that can damage crops or hinder growth, and increase productivity.

While sustainable agriculture through soil, water and seed management can increase crop yields, an efficient warehousing and distribution system is also necessary to ensure that the output reaches the consumers. According to a study by CIPHET, Indian government’s harvest-research body, up to 67 million tons of food get wasted every year — a quantity equivalent to that consumed by the entire state of Bihar in a year. Perishables, such as fruits and vegetables, end up rotting in store houses or during transportation due to pests, erratic weather and the lack of modern storage facilities. In fact, simply bringing down food wastage and increasing the efficiency in distribution alone can significantly help improve food security. Innovations such as special tarpaulins, that keep perishables cool during transit, and more efficient insulation solutions can reduce rotting and reduce energy usage in cold storage.

Thus, all three aspects — production, storage, and distribution — need to be optimized if India is to feed its ever-growing population.

One company working to drive increased sustainability down the entire agriculture value chain is BASF. For example, the company offers cutting edge seed treatments that protect crops from disease and provide plant health benefits such as enhanced vitality and better tolerance for stress and cold. In addition, BASF has developed a biodegradable mulch film from its ecovio® bioplastic that is certified compostable – meaning farmers can reap the benefits of better soil without risk of contamination or increased labor costs. These and more of the company’s innovations are helping farmers in India achieve higher and more sustainable yields.

Of course, products are only one part of the solution. The company also recognizes the importance of training farmers in sustainable farming practices and in the safe use of its products. To this end, BASF engaged in a widespread farmer outreach program called Samruddhi from 2007 to 2014. Their ‘Suraksha Hamesha’ (safety always) program reached over 23,000 farmers and 4,000 spray men across India in 2016 alone. In addition to training, the company also offers a ‘Sanrakshan® Kit’ to farmers that includes personal protection tools and equipment. All these efforts serve to spread awareness about the sustainable and responsible use of crop protection products – ensuring that farmers stay safe while producing good quality food.

Interested in learning more about BASF’s work in sustainable agriculture? See here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.