Since the appointment of Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, news reports have told us many things about him: he eats papaya and boiled oats for breakfast, for lunch he has boiled veggies with chapatti, he drinks buttermilk all day, he is up at 3 am and practices Yoga religiously. If these reports are to be believed, there’s little to set him apart from so many other austere people in India – except perhaps the criminal cases against him, including for attempt to murder and rioting, and the allegation that in inflammatory speeches, he exhorted his followers to kill Muslims.
Vaibhav Vishal saw this normalisation of the Hindutva hardliner and knew there was space for humour and parody. “Yogi Adityanath is a fine leader with a keen sense of rabble-rousing, knowing how to capitalise on the public sentiment,” said Vishal, 41. “I know another leader who is also like that, and well, he is not doing too bad for himself, either. So yeah, he has been a great choice.”
Three days after Adityanath took office, Vishal started the Tumbr account Yogi Adityanath Doing Things to post photographs of the Hindutva firebrand found on the internet with ironic captions.
But first, Vishal had a disclaimer for the visitors to the page:
“I do not really endorse the politics of Yogi Adityanath... I also DO NOT endorse the politics of Asaduddin Owaisi or the minority appeasement games being played by Rahul, Mulayam or Mamata. I know this disorients all of you who already were calling me a Libtard and a Paki agent... I am sorry about confusing you. I am also sorry about anything and everything that has offended you in the past or can offend you in the future. I am sorry about how you are and what you have become.”
One image posted on the parody account shows Adityanath shaking hands with Narendra Modi, with the caption “Yogi Adityanath thanking Narendra Modi for the Gujarat model”. In another, the religious head of the Goraknath Math can be seen holding a trident, and the caption says, “Yogi Adityanath preparing himself to save the Muslims from communal forces.”
Vishal is a veteran of parody on social media. He runs the popular Twitter handle Real Indian History, and was the creator of the Tumblr account Pratibha Patil Doing Things. “While it is tough for any non-video-non-gaali content – and long reads at that – to get the eyeballs and the stickiness, I have had the fortune of going viral every now and then,” said Vishal, a full-time writer who lives in Mumbai. “I started the Doing Things memes with Pratibha Patil and my deviant tributes have had a life of their own, with Sharad Pawar, Mayawati, Anna Hazare and Nita Ambani being some of the beneficiaries of my largesse.”
Why do his Tumblr accounts do so well? “There is this simmering, on-going grudge that we have against the people in power,” he responded. “It is good to see them stripped of their power, so to say, with just some fun wordplay and random imagination. The smiles and the chuckles, therefore, are not just at the one-liners. The joy goes beyond that. It is the Davids having fun with the Goliaths.”