After running a toxic campaign of communal politics for over a decade-and-a-half in Uttar Pradesh, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the private militia of Chief Minister Adityanath, is quietly unravelling in several parts of the state.
Massive desertions have hit the outfit in its traditional stronghold in the east, as well as in western parts of the state where it suddenly gained strength after Adityanath was appointed chief minister last March following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s landslide victory in the Assembly elections. Adityanath had previously represented Gorakhpur in Parliament since 1998.
The desertions in at least three districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh – Balrampur, Mau and Azamgarh – are so extensive that the militia has virtually ceased to exist there.
Balrampur has so far been an important Hindu Yuva Vahini stronghold. On February 1, hundreds of workers in the area, led by district president Ranjit Azad, resigned from the outfit. “The Hindu Yuva Vahini had a strong presence in four out of nine blocks of Balrampur district,” said Azad. “These included Utraula, Gaindas Buzurg, Rehra Bazar and Shridutt Ganj. Most of our workers in these blocks left the organisation because the state leadership was not allowing us to function.”
The Mau district unit became dysfunctional around the same time. “On February 3, the district committee of Mau was dissolved by the state leadership,” said Akhilesh Kumar Sahi, who was the outfit’s district organisation secretary. “Since then hundreds of our workers have left the organisation. Some have become inactive while others have joined the Samajwadi Party.”
In Azamgarh district, the mass desertions took place in three phases: in Azamgarh town on January 9, in Bilariaganj block on January 11 and in Tahbarpur on January 19.
Founded in 2002, the Hindu Yuva Vahini was designed to fulfil Adityanath’s electoral aspirations. The communal polarisation the outfit sought to create in Gorakhpur and neighbouring districts paid him huge dividends. His victory margin, which was around 7,000 votes in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, grew to 1.42 lakh votes in 2004 and to over three lakh votes in the 2009 and 2014 general elections.
Outside its traditional stronghold, the Hindu Yuva Vahini started crumbling first in the state capital, Lucknow. This was followed by a spate of desertions and dissolution of its units in western Uttar Pradesh.
“It all began…when under the BJP’s pressure, PK Mall [state general secretary of the Hindu Yuva Vahini], announced the dissolution of the Lucknow unit,” said Anubhav Shukla who was in charge of that unit.
Shukla added: “This created massive unrest in the organisation, and on December 8, merely hours after the announcement of the dissolution of the Lucknow district unit, nearly 2,500 active members collectively resigned from the Hindu Yuva Vahini.”
Ten days later, on December 17, over 100 members in western Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district – most of whom had joined the outfit after Adityanath took charge of the state – resigned under the leadership of district unit president Kuldeep Gaud. “On February 7, another lot of over 100 members left the Hindu Yuva Vahini under the leadership of the Shamli unit’s district organisation secretary Vikash Singhal,” said Gaud. “The feeling of neglect by state-level leaders of the organisation forced us to come out of the Hindu Yuva Vahini.”
The outfit’s Ravindra Pratap, who is in charge of the media, sought to downplay the desertions. “Ours is a cultural organisation,” he said. “Those who have developed political aspirations are the only ones leaving the Hindu Yuva Vahini. Even the units that have been dissolved are such that could not handle the new situation which arose after Maharaj-ji [Adityanath] became the chief minister.”
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the parent body of the ruling BJP, had asked Adityanath to dismantle the militia soon after he was sworn in as chief minister.
The RSS fears that with Adityanath as chief minister, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, which exists outside the purview of the Sangh Parivar, might grow as a parallel Hindutva outfit with its own independent political ambitions that might clash with those of the BJP in the future. The fear is that if allowed to grow, the outfit has the potential to turn the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh into something like Maharashtra, where the BJP has to compete with a rival Hindu party, the Shiv Sena, for votes.
On May 2, speaking on behalf of Adityanath, PK Mall announced a freeze on the outfit’s membership “for the next six months or even a year”. A close aide of Adityanath’s said that Mall’s announcement did not satisfy the RSS, which wants nothing short of the complete disbandment of the Hindu Yuva Vahini.
Continued pressure from the RSS is believed to have forced Adityanath to ensure that the outfit remained inactive and to dissolve the units of the outfit that refused to fall in line, thus provoking the desertions.