2022 UP assembly polls: Oppn may be treading soft Hindutva path
There is a buzz about Prime Minister Narendra Modi arriving in Ayodhya for this year’s Deepotsav that the Yogi Adityanath government has been holding annually since coming to power in Uttar Pradesh in March 2017. Deepotsav is celebrated in the temple town the day before Diwali which falls on November 4 this year.
While Modi’s yet to be confirmed Ayodhya visit is largely being viewed as the party’s attempt to play up the temple card ahead of the 2022 UP assembly election, politicians of other parties, too, are engaging in what is being referred to as “soft Hindutva.”
In fact, as the Congress leaders indicated, the party could take out a “pratigya yatra” (pledge journey) from Ayodhya in October during the Navratri, a nine-day period which Hindus consider auspicious.
“Nothing official yet but yes, something is in the works,” said a Congress party leader.
Ahead of the 2017 UP polls that the Congress had contested with the Samajwadi Party, Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had offered prayers at Ayodhya’s Hanumangarhi temple in September 2016. Back then, it was the first visit by a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to Ayodhya since the demolition of the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992 when there was a Congress government at the Centre and a BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
Other Opposition parties too are engaged in this subtle Hindutva play, which political experts said could be guided by the thought of blunting BJP’s ploy of labelling the Opposition as one engaged in “tushtikaran” (appeasement) of the minorities, mainly Muslims.
“On offer these days is a deft play of soft Hindutva by almost all the major political parties ahead of the UP election,” said professor Manuka Khanna from the political science department of Lucknow University (LU).
Whether it was Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party, which decided to take out a tiranga yatra (tricolour journey) in Ayodhya or the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that launched its prabuddha samaj (intellectual class) meetings from the temple town, soft Hindutva is trending ahead of the 2022 UP polls.
UP assembly speaker Hriday Narain Dikshit, who won the 2017 UP polls as a BJP MLA from Unnao, said, “There are many political parties whose leaders are visiting temples now. However, the people well know their vote bank considerations behind this.” He was speaking at a meeting of the intellectual class in Unnao.
In December 2020, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, too, had visited Ayodhya.
“Bhagwan Ram belongs to us as much as anyone else,” he had said. Yadav has since visited a series of temples across the state, including the famous Bankey Bihari temple in Mathura.
However, the BJP has continued to target Akhilesh, continuously using the appeasement charge.
“We know what the BJP is up to. However, we aren’t going to fall for their trap. They are trying to show that they have a copyright on Lord Ram or Lord Krishna while labelling us as ones engaged in appeasement. But we are saying the Lord is for all, not for a select few. We are Hindus, too, but the BJP is cleverly engaging in selectivism for the sake of the same vote bank politics that it accuses us of,” a Samajwadi Party (SP) leader, requesting anonymity said.
Even lawmakers across all parties in UP appear to be guided by “soft Hindutva”. Take for instance, the UP tourism department scheme launched for the promotion of heritage and tourism places in the state.
“Majority of MLAs, across all parties, preferred to identify sites associated with the Hindu faith for development. In all, close to 370 proposals for as many sites were received,” an official of the state’s tourism department said.