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UP Investors Summit 2018 to signal dawn of new Yogi brand

UP Investor Summit 2018 is not just a governance or economic initiative, but a deeply political move, which has the stamp of chief minister Yogi Adityanath all over it.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2018 07:33 IST
Prashant Jha
Prashant Jha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UP Investors Summit 2018,Yogi Adityanath,Uttar Pradesh
Security personnel inspect the venue of UP Investors Summit 2018 in Lucknow.(PTI File Photo)

Uttar Pradesh holds a mega investor summit from Wednesday. In itself, this is not unusual. Each state now hosts captains of industry, showcases incentives it can provide, and seeks to lure investment. In the last few weeks, both Maharashtra and Assam have held such events. If anything, UP is behind the curve. It desperately needs industry, it needs jobs, and it needs to woo capital.

But the UP investor summit is not just a governance or economic initiative. This is a deeply political move, which has the stamp of chief minister Yogi Adityanath all over it. It is one element of a four-pillar ‘model’ that Adityanath appears to have picked straight from the Narendra Modi playbook in Gujarat.

When Adityanath took over as chief minister, there was surprise at the BJP’s pick. With his controversial statements and alleged record of inciting communal polarisation, he was seen as the ‘fringe’ within the BJP. But after his appointment, Adityanath — who is only 45 — sensed an opportunity.

Anyone who rules Lucknow begins harbouring national ambitions because of the sheer political weight of the state. Adityanath was well aware that this required more sophisticated politics than the one that he had practised in Gorakhpur until then. In a way, his role model was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had undergone one of the most dramatic image transformations in Indian political history. In this school of thought, politics was equal to power; power stemmed from elections; elections depended on images, signalling and messaging; and thus politics was about images. Here is what Adityanath has done.

The first element is not giving up on what is already a key ingredient of his brand and has yielded success so far. Adityanath is a Hindu leader, assertive about his religious identity, and not hesitant to use it for political purposes. Even after becoming CM, he has kept this side alive. From celebrating Diwali in Ayodhya, to giving provocative speeches in Karnataka, he has ensured he appeals to the Hindu base of the broad parivar. This has also made him one of the BJP’s most-sought-after campaigners after the prime minister in election-bound states.

Two, Adityanath has sought to project himself as a tough, no-nonsense administrator committed to a strong state, with no tolerance for crime. UP has a history of both high rates of crime and frequent threats to public order. The Saharanpur and Kasganj incidents revealed that clashes persist due to strong caste and communal undertones. It is too early to judge if crime rates have fallen under him. But what we know is there has been a spate of encounters. Human rights groups and the opposition have criticised the free run given by the government to the police. But Adityanath is unapologetic. Police say they have been assured of protection and authorised to use force. This throws up disturbing questions about rule of law, but has popular resonance.

The Adityanath government’s crackdown on cheating, which apparently led to the huge drop in the number of students appearing for board exams, is also a part of the project to crack the whip and be seen as a strong leader.

Three, Adityanath’s personal association with a religious institution and his ‘single’ status have given him an aura of being incorruptible -- uninterested in the temptations of the world, with no family to promote. This is a huge asset in a state which has seen regimes marked by family rule (Samajwadi Party) or perceived corruption (BSP) or both.

Finally — this is where the investor summit comes in — Adityanath knows the rhetoric of ‘vikas’ is central to politics now. Development can mean different things, but on the ground, it is often associated with factories and jobs. UP has an extraordinarily high rate of migrants who have to move out to work in other Indian cities and states. Adityanath wants to be seen as someone who can bring the factories and jobs home.

For this, he is pitching UP’s market size to potential investors. It is to be seen whether substantial investment comes in (the MoUs signed at these meets don’t often translate into real projects); it is doubtful that even if investment comes in, it will be able to address UP’s unemployment crisis; and the governance and institutional deficits of the state continue to persist. But more than the real deliverables, it will be the optics of the summit that will help in Adityanath’s personal
branding.

A Hindu leader, a strong leader, a clean leader, and a pro-business leader using the language of ‘vikas’ -- sounds familiar? The Yogi Adityanath roadmap is clear.

First Published: Feb 21, 2018 07:33 IST