It has been barely two-and-a-half months since Adityanath became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s landslide victory in the March Assembly polls. But already, the feud between his Hindu Yuva Vahini and the ruling party has resulted in clashes in several parts of the state.
Though senior office-bearers of the Hindu Yuva Vahini have tried to gloss over the tension, BJP cadres seem to be displaying an intense suspicion of Adityanath’s personal outfit, which, they argue, has through its aggresive expansion almost deprived them of the feeling of being the ruling party in the state.
The latest clash between the two sides took place in Gonda on May 28, when BJP workers ransacked the vehicle of Hindu Yuva Vahini state vice-president Ashok Singh and thrashed his driver. Singh escaped the attack as he had stepped out to welcome Adityanath, who was to arrive in the city on his first visit after becoming chief minister.
Six days earlier, on May 22, there was an altercation between BJP and Hindu Yuva Vahini workers in Kannauj, this time for control over sand mining on a particular patch of the Ganga. The two sides started off pelting stones at each other and ended up opening fire. Later, they lodged police complaints against each other.
Before that, on May 13, BJP workers were enraged with they saw Hindu Yuva Vahini workers putting up their triangular flags at the venue of a party meeting in Basti. Adityanath was to address party workers there but there were hardly any BJP flags to be seen at the venue. When the chief minister arrived, the BJP workers protested loudly.
A BJP party leader, who asked to remain unidentified, said party workers faced resistance when they sought to put up their own flags. “It was outrageous,” the leader said. “There were hardly any BJP flags even as Adityanath was to address party workers. Everywhere, it was the triangular saffron flag of the Hindu Yuva Vahini. Only after much resistance could we put up BJP flags at the venue.”
Hindu Yuva Vahini general secretary PK Mall insisted that has not been any spurt in tension between the two groups. “We are working harmoniously like two fraternal organisations striving in tandem to strengthen the hands of our chief minister,” he told Scroll.in. “Clashes, wherever you find them, are between selfish elements of the two organisations.”
Mall’s claim notwithstanding, tensions are clearly rising, stoked by old rivalries and vastly different aspirations. While the Hindu Yuva Vahini claims to be a cultural organisation, its political motivations have never been a secret, and after Adityanath became chief minister, they have become even more obvious. The BJP fears that Adityanath is far more influenced by his personal outfit than the party he leads in the Assembly.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini’s area of influence was earlier confined to Gorakhpur and the neighbouring districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh, but Adityanath’s ascension to power has brought about an exponential growth in its membership across the state – a development the BJP has watched with deep anxiety.
Even in places where the hostility has not given way to clashes, the tension is palpable. “Workers of the BJP are getting frustrated because ordinary people come to us to get their problems resolved,” said Sunil Jaiswal, president of the Hindu Yuva Vahini’s Ambedkar Nagar unit. “Even some of the cadres of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh want to join Hindu Yuva Vahini. They will be the first ones to get enrolled with us the day we remove the freeze on membership,” he added.
Hindu Yuva Vahini general secretary PK Mall had announced a freeze on membership to the group “for the next six months or even a year” on May 3, the day after deputy chief minister and BJP state president Keshav Prasad Maurya hit out at Adityanath for allegedly giving “preferential treatment” to “outsiders” in the government at the cost of party cadre.
Maurya’s outburst came on the concluding day of the two-day state executive meet of the BJP, which was also attended by BJP national president Amit Shah, and is believed to have had the approval of the state Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological parent.
According to people familiar with the situation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh wants Adityanath to disband his Hindu Yuva Vahini, which exists outside the purview of the Sangh Parivar. It reportedly fears that Adityanath’s private army may grow into an influential parallel Hindutva outfit. The chief minister has so far not responded to the Sangh’s demand.