Yogi in South India

Yogi in South India

Pic Courtesy @DailyO_

Pic Courtesy @DailyO_

Article first published in @DailyO_ click here 


Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s meeting with representatives of meat traders on Thursday was a textbook act. As per reports, the delegation was satisfied with the UP chief minister’s assurance that no action will be taken against licensed slaughterhouses.

They agreed that protesting butchers would return to work and apply for licences, which the state government will help them obtain. All parties were one on the issue of not allowing illegal slaughterhouses to function.

There could not have been a more amicable outcome to a standoff. If in the process, UP-ites had to go through a low cholesterol and red meat diet for a week, it could not have caused them much harm.

Strikes are not uncommon even in the meat trade. As a young student just out of school, I had travelled to Kashmir in the spring of 1979, when butchers had gone on strike as the state government had opposed their bid to increase meat prices.

To break the impasse, Sheikh Abdullah who was the CM then, decided to fly in meat from Delhi. That brought the striking traders to the negotiating table and we were able to taste the Kashmiri Wazwan delicacies before leaving the Valley.

In a parallel development, a special bench of the Allahabad High Court in Lucknow cleared the “Anti-Romeo Squads”, while advising the forces to exercise caution, on which directions had already been issued by the state government.

The simple point is that there are standard operating procedures (SOPs) for resolving administrative crises. Adityanath may be a novice in running a state, but as the "mahant" of a large Mutt, he surely knows some basic rules of management and the importance of having a good supporting team.

Besides the bureaucracy and the police, he has two strong deputies and mature aides like Siddharth Nath Singh to assist him.

There was a small news item two days before Adityanath’s appointment that many missed. Nripendra Mishra, principal secretary to the PM, an old UP hand, flew in to Lucknow. It does not take too much of intelligence to guess the purpose of his mission, which must have been to put the administrative structure in place for the new CM.

While analysts can continue to dissect the political ramifications of having a saffron-clad CM, Adityanath has made it clear that he means business and shall not be waylaid by detractors in the media and opposition. This is something he would have learnt by observing Narendra Modi over the years, both during his tenure in Gujarat and as PM.

Like Modi, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Yogi Adityanath is here for the long run and is not going to be a one-season CM like, for example, Uma Bharati.

The Yogi knows that no amount of Hindu polarisation can earn him the dividends that good governance can. The only way he can neutralise, if not win over, Muslim votes is by providing them a safety net, which includes security, access to education and social reforms (read triple talaq).

Therefore, if Modi had set a record of “riot-free” Gujarat for 12 years, Adityanath cannot sully his innings with a hit wicket or run-out even before he has gotten off the mark.

So, if Yogi Adityanath’s critics and adversaries are hoping to trip him in Uttar Pradesh they must look elsewhere. Short of engineering communal unrests, which Adityanath would not allow, old tricks in the book such as Award Wapasi, fake FOE battles at campuses and rewriting history books that worked in Delhi are unlikely to cut much ice in UP, where the concerns of the people are much more basic.

Instead, the liberals ought to turn their attention on how the BJP is planning to use Adityanath elsewhere. If there are risks of further religious polarisation at all, it will be outside of Uttar Pradesh, when Adityanath goes out to campaign in Gujarat and other states.

But, the BJP’s real gambit with Adityanath, in my opinion, will be in the South. So far, Modi has succeeded in softening the ground in South India but BJP is yet to gather the critical mass to make any serious inroads there (except, of course, for Karnataka).

It is here that Yogi Adityanath can be a game changer. Arguably, a saffron saint can capture people’s imagination much more powerfully in the conservative South and help BJP reach the crucial tipping point that has been eluding them for so long.

The Yogi’s achievements will also stand out to the southerners much more from Uttar Pradesh, as it has far greater visibility beyond the Vindhyas than other northern states.

While Modi will appeal to the more urbane and politically conscious classes, signs of which were already apparent in his Shiv Ratri visit to the Adi Yogi statue inauguration televised all over the South, Yogi Adityanath will be a mascot for the Mutt and temple-going God-fearing South Indians. Together they can make a potent combination that can tilt the scales before 2019.

So, forget Ram Janambhoomi, get ready to welcome Yogi Adityanath at Rameshwaram sometime soon.

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