Yogi Adityanath as a strong Hindutva face has been called to counter the rise of caste-based leaders like Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit activist Jignesh Mewani in Gujarat.
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani | Caravan Daily
AHMEDABAD — In Gujarat, caste politics is gaining momentum with every passing day as as Patidar, OBC, Adivasis and Dalit community have already given enough indication to trouble the BJP in the upcoming state Assembly election. To counter this challenge, the BJP has set its eyes on UP CM Yogi Adityanath for rescue operation.
Yogi is considered to be the third most popular figure in the party after Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, and the most popular chief minister in the country. He was BJP’s best bet for consolidating the Hindu vote in Uttar Pradesh that has seen a surge in caste conflicts and movements in the past few years.
Sources in the state said the BJP needs a strong Hindutva face ahead of elections in Gujarat after the rise of caste-based leaders like Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit activist Jignesh Mewani. After Kerala, the BJP will field Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Hindutva poster boy Yogi Adityanath in a ‘Gaurav Yatra’ ahead of elections in Gujarat. The yatra borrows its name from Narendra Modi’s post-riot campaign in the state in 2002 that sought to restore Gujarati ‘pride’.
The UP CM will lead the yatra on two consecutive days — in south Gujarat on October 13 and in north Gujarat the next day — one of the programme coordinators, Kaushik Bhai Patel said.
This is the first time after 2002 that a ‘Gaurav Yatra’ has been organised in Gujarat. It comes ahead of the state’s first post-Modi elections. The BJP hopes to replicate the success of the four parivartan yatras in UP that featured Yogi months before the Assembly elections in the state.
After Kerala, the BJP will field Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Hindutva poster boy Yogi Adityanath in a ‘Gaurav Yatra’ ahead of elections in Gujarat. The yatra borrows its name from Narendra Modi’s post-riot campaign in the state in 2002 that sought to restore Gujarati ‘pride’.
The first phase of the ‘Gaurav Yatra’ was flagged off by BJP president Amit Shah at Karamsad, the birthplace of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, on October 1. This yatra, being led by Deputy CM Nitin Patel, will cover 1,361km and 76 Assembly constituencies in central and north Gujarat.
The second phase, led by Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani, started on October 2 from Porbandar, birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, and will cover 2,395km across 73 Assembly seats in south Gujarat and Saurashtra. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani will join both yatra routes on alternate days.
Gujarat BJP had sought time from Yogi Adityanath in view of his increasing popularity and pro-Hindutva image. The UP CM’s office has confirmed Yogi’s Gujarat visit, Patel told here.
The UP CM has gained popularity in the past six months, mainly because of his pro-people and tough decisions such as banning illegal slaughterhouses in the state, BJP spokesperson Chandramohan said, adding that there’s great demand for Yogi Adityanath among the BJP workers across the country. An RSS functionary, however, saw the BJP’s move to field UP CM in Kerala and Gujarat as part of the Sangh Parivar’s larger strategy to present the Hindutva hardliner as a national leader and increase his acceptability among the masses. Interestingly, Yogi’s two-day visit would end a day before Gujarat ‘Gaurav Yatra’ is scheduled to end on October 15.
Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah will attend the concluding ceremony at a place that is yet to be finalised.
Meanwhile, Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), floated by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister in 2002, is making news in Gujarat. The group has asked the state BJP government to revive the ‘anti-romeo squads’. The BJP-led state government had for the first time formed such squads in Gujarat in 1998, but they were largely dormant. The anti-romeo squads were recently introduced by Yogi Adityanath’s government in UP to ostensibly check incidents of eve-teasing, indecent behavior and passing of lewd comments at women and girls.
However, anti-romeo squads are battling allegations of moral policing in UP for harassing couples in public spaces and even meting out punishment for “indecent” behavior. Some months ago, members of the Vahini broke into a house in Meerut and dragged out a Hindu-Muslim couple, thrashing the man in full public view.
The HYV is also aiming to widen the scope of Hindutva in order to bring about massive Hindu vote consolidation ahead of the next general election in 2019. Now, it is testing the waters in Gujarat as state Assembly elections will be held around December 2017. While UP polls were a matter of prestige for PM Modi and Amit Shah, Gujarat could well be the ‘do or die’ battle for them.
(Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior journalist based in Ahmedabad, also Editor of Gujarat Siyasat)