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.