Akhilesh Yadav on hop, stop, click temple run in Uttar Pradesh
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has been keeping a bustling schedule, visiting Hindu pilgrimage centres like Ayodhya, Chitrakoot across Uttar Pradesh and meeting saints and seers almost on a regular basis. Yadav has also been invoking Hindu deities - Ram, Krishna, Hanuman, and Parshuram. Political observers say it appears the party is treading the soft Hindutva path in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, due to be held early next year.
The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister made a brief stopover in Ayodhya from Azamgarh four weeks back, where he said: “Is Lord Ram not of Samajwadis (socialists)?"
Then, on January 8, Yadav visited Chitrakoot, did a full 5.5-kilometre parikrama (circumambulation) of the Kamtanath temple at Kamadgiri. Kamadgiri is believed to have been the abode of Lord Ram, Sita, and Lakshman during their exile.
The 47-year-old also visited half-a-dozen temples, including a Hanuman temple, and met seers and saints there. He took their blessings and posted pictures of his visit on his Twitter account. He took credit for development of the circumambulation route and accused the BJP government of neglecting it.
Before this, in Ayodhya, he had similarly stated that it was his government that planted Parijat trees on the Ayodhya parikrama routes.
“When Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya, Parijat trees showered flowers on him. Parijat is also associated with Lord Krishna, it was he who brought the tree to earth. That story is different. We revere all the incarnations of Lord Vishnu — Ram, Krishna, and others," he had said and added that he would soon visit Ayodhya with his family.
He also emphasised: “I am religious. I have a temple at home, one outside, and had built one at the chief minister's residence during my stay there.”
Political observers call it a clear and emphatic display of soft Hindutva by the former chief minister and say that it is an attempt to attract Hindu voters.
"It's a logical strategy. The party is aware that apart from its traditional Yadav and Muslim vote banks, and secular posturing, it’s important to win over Hindu voters as well if they have to win the 2022 polls," said Prof SK Dwivedi, a political analyst and former head of the department of political science, Lucknow University.
“WH Morris Jones, an eminent writer, wrote that in Indian politics there are three political idioms at play — traditional (caste, creed, etc), modern (democracy, secularism, constitution, etc), and saintly (religion, religious leaders, seers, maulanas, etc). What Akhilesh Yadav is exercising is saintly idiom ahead of the polls. It’s logical also considering the ruling party, the BJP, has been emphatic about its Hindutva,” Dwivedi added.
Two weeks ago, a group of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh religious leaders from Ayodhya visited him in Lucknow. On the occasion, Ayodhya’s former SP MLA Tej Narayan Pandey, aka Pawan Pandey, who is most likely to contest the 2022 polls from Ayodhya again, had accused the BJP government of ignoring Parshuram, a Brahmin warrior.
He had said: “This BJP government scrapped the holiday that Akhileshji’s government had introduced on Parshuram Jayanti (birth anniversary).”
Yadav had said several times that on return to power, he will reintroduce the Parshuram Jayanti holiday.
He also frequently talks about the ancient King Harshvardhan whose capital was Kannauj and his contribution to Kumbh fair where he used to donate everything he had.
Yadav represented Kannauj thrice in Lok Sabha. And it was at the same event that he made the statement: "Lord Ram is not of BJP alone. Lord Ram is of all Indians and all the people outside India.”
Perhaps in response, chief minister Yogi Adityanath was quick to say in a public meeting: "Those who used to say Ram was a kalpanik (imaginary) figure, are now saying Ram is of everyone.”
On Sunday, on his return to Lucknow from his Chitrakoot trip, Akhilesh Yadav tweeted: “Harey Krishna, Harey Krishna, Krishna Krishna Harey Harey; Harey Ram, Harey Ram, Ram Ram Harey Harey”. Along with the tweet, there was a picture of him standing next to a temple.