The election in Uttar Pradesh is remarkable for more reasons than one. It has broken many a jinx, rewritten the rules of the game and promises to buoy an alternative leader within the BJP. The last being truly momentous.
When asked about his chances to return to power, a confident Yogi Adityanath made a pertinent point. “I was told not to visit Noida, as it is considered a bad omen. Yet, I won. I was told UP Chief Ministers don’t complete their tenure, but I did. In over thirty years, no one has returned to power in Uttar Pradesh, but we will win.”
The cool self-assurance was not misplaced, as BJP has done what no party in recent years has been able to pull off in UP. The inference of this achievement is even more important than the victory itself. It points to the fact that BJP is and will remain the sole significant and unchallenged political power of the country for some years to come.
It may be remembered that when BJP won elections in 2017, the Mahant of Gorakhnath Mutt was not the natural choice as Chief Minister. Many players had thrown their hats in the ring. It was a sudden phone call from Amit Shah that got Yogi Adityanath on a chartered flight to Delhi and the rest as they say is history.
The saffron-clad leader was sure-footed from the word go – many goondas were effaced in alleged fake encounters, criminals hounded and put behind bars, bureaucrats put in place through direct interventions from CMO, and a heady mix of right-wing policies along with left-wing pro-people welfare schemes served to the people.
Love jihad, ban of cow slaughter, rounding up of Romeos became a motif of Yogi politics while a plethora of Pradhan Mantri schemes like direct cash awards to farmers and distribution of free ration in Covid times won the battle of the stomach and hearts. So successful was the Yogi prototype that other BJP chief ministers would speed dial for tips, and many have replicated these schemes from Assam to Madhya Pradesh. Yogi emerged into his own, no longer a leader in the shadow of the Centre.
His acumen as a tactful politician surfaced as he made peace with his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya and also checked all attempts to let Gujarat cadre bureaucrat A K Sharma loose on him. With this nearly unexpected emergence of Yogi Adityanath as a mass leader, he is being seriously considered as a successor to Narendra Modi in years ahead; Amit Shah being viewed more as a backroom boy with exceptional political engineering skills.
In fact, a lot of what Yogi has been able to accomplish today is a result of Amit Shah’s taking on Uttar Pradesh as a personal mission in 2014 after he became the party chief. Ensconcing himself firmly in the state, Amit Shah understood the nuts and bolts of the state’s caste equations and its politics that kept Bua-Bhatija class of politics relevant. His exceptional caste re-engineering especially as he befriended Nishads and Backwards beyond the Yadavs became a subject of study at Harvard University as it turned the party’s 15% vote percentage into a whopping 45% at an average. It would be only fair to say that this superb caste arithmetic of Amit Shah is to a very large extent is responsible for the making of Yogi Adityanath.