Yogi Adityanath’s pilgrimage push shows Hindutva still BJP’s key election plank
Political analysts say the push is part of a careful BJP strategy to retain the Hindu vote ahead of rural body elections scheduled later this year – the first big electoral test for Adityanath.india Updated: Oct 23, 2017 18:40 IST
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s push to promote Hindu pilgrimage sites in recent months has sparked a political controversy with experts saying the move indicated that Hindutva will remain a key poll plank for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of crucial elections.
The opposition has protested the state government’s decisions to allocate funds for holy Hindu sites and leave out others – in the temple town of Ayodhya alone, projects worth Rs 483 crore have been unveiled in six months while the Taj Mahal has received a fraction of the funds – and called it “selective development”.
But political analysts say the push is part of a careful BJP strategy to retain the Hindu vote ahead of rural body elections scheduled later this year – the first big electoral test for Adityanath who swept to power in March – and Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
“Having successfully made inroads into the OBC vote bank of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Dalit base of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the 2017 UP election, the BJP is eager to ensure that Hindus continue to vote for it, something the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had been working on for quite some time,” said Athar Siddiqui from the Centre for Objective Research and Development.
The BJP won a two-thirds majority in the assembly elections on a development plank with the prime minister promising to make UP – one of India’s poorest states – into a manufacturing and jobs hub. Similar promises were made when the BJP swept the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
But analysts now feel that that the saffron party wants to keep alive Hindutva issues that propelled it to national importance in the 90s, on the back of a movement around the building of a Ram Temple.
The Ram Temple issue, along with plans to rebuild temples “ignored” by previous regimes, have made a return to the state government’s agenda. Adityanath has also made special budgetary provisions to develop the temple towns of Mathura, Varanasi and Ayodhya.
“Adityanath’s religious trail could well be an attempt to keep the Hindu voters engaged. Who knows closer to 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which some feel could be advanced, the BJP might have a surprise or two in store on the Ayodhya temple issue too,” added Siddiqui.
The government is looking to develop other Hindu religious sites such as Chitrakoot – where Hindu god Ram is believed to have spent a majority of his 14-year exile – and hold the Ardh Kumbh in Allahabad in 2019 on a grand scale.
The Opposition is up in arms with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav accusing the BJP of playing “an emotional, religious card”.
“This government is merely trying to divert public opinion by playing up such issues,” Yadav said in Meerut on Sunday.
- Three visits to Ayodhya, sanctioning ₹ 483 crore for development work in the town from where the temple issue powered the BJP’s rise in the 90s.
- Special budgetary provisions for development of Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi in the UP government’s first budget
- Lifting of ban on music for ‘kanwariyas’ (Shiva pilgrims) in February and ordering hte pruning of fig trees considered inauspicious by the kanwariyas.
- Grand Janmashtami celebrations in UP in August. The government accused previous administrations of banning similarevents, including those that took place at police stations to mark the supposed birth of Hindu god Krishna.
- In his first foreign visit as chief minister, Yogi described Myanmar as ‘Brahmdesh’ and marketed the Buddha, Ramayana and Krishna circuits his government was developing in UP. He also used the occasion to extend an invite to the people in Myanmar to visit the Ardh-Kumbh in Allahabad in 2019.
- A special meeting of the Adityanath cabinet in Allahabad to formalise decisions, especially on the Ardh Kumbh.
- Grand Diwali celebrations in Ayodhya, and an even grander Dev Dipawali celebrations in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the home of the famous ‘Jyotirling’ Kashi Vishwanath temple.
BSP president Mayawati, who has already announced plans to hold a rally every month in UP and to contest the November’s civic polls on her party symbol, is expected to raise the issue during her public meeting from Azamgarh – the parliamentary constituency of Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav – on Tuesday.
But the BJP is unfazed and on Monday, began screening candidates for the rural body polls.
“For 15 years, you saw how a particular community was suppressed in the name of appeasement. Now, as we work on restoring the balance after having declared plans to work on ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ our political rivals are seeing politics in it,” said state BJP leader Manish Shukla.