Yogi Adityanath’s hardline Hindutva image framed most of the coverage of the Uttar Pradesh elections in the British media, with The Guardian calling his appointment as chief minister a “victory for anti-Muslim bigotry” just when an Islamophobic party failed to win the polls in Holland last week.
Newspapers and tabloids reported the recent round of assembly elections, mainly focussing on the BJP’s pro-Hindu leanings, with comments and questions about the implications of the party’s victory in Uttar Pradesh for a pluralistic society such as India.
The Guardian was the only frontline daily that commented on Adityanath in an editorial titled “Victory for anti-Muslim bigotry”.
It said: “The BJP’s skill is producing a circus to divert attention from how poorly the country is doing. This has been successful: voters overwhelmingly endorsed Mr Modi’s decision last November to cancel high-value banknotes – the so-called demonetisation of 86% of all currency - which they were told was a key anti-corruption reform.”
It added, “This is a nation that once was said to succeed in spite of the gods. Now it is going backwards because of them.”
BBC’s south Asia analyst Anbarasan Ethirajan wrote: “But Mr Adityanath is widely regarded as a polarising figure because of his well-publicised anti-Muslim comments. The BJP leaders probably believe that their election formula of consolidating the votes of the Hindu majority will help them to sail through the next general elections.
“It's a double-edged strategy: it may succeed or could galvanise the disparate opposition parties to come together. The rise of Hindu nationalists has already triggered concerns among India's religious minorities, and the choice of Mr Adityanath is likely to intensify them.”
Newspapers that reported the assembly elections included Financial Times and Daily Mail, but except for The Guardian, there was little editorial comment at a time when Brexit and US President Donald Trump occupied most of the focus.