When A K Sharma an IAS officer and secretary to Narendra Modi both in Gujarat and the Centre quit his job recently and rushed to Uttar Pradesh to be an MLC and be an important aide of chief minister Yogi Adityanath, the rumor mills were abuzz. With UP elections less than a year away, was this part of Modi’s game plan to oversee politics in the state? Whether it was or not, sources say that Yogi was not very upbeat about Sharma’s entry. And last week, the story doing the rounds, suggests that Yogi communicated his reservations to the Prime Minister when he went to Delhi to call on him. This has acted as a brake on the possibility of Sharma being inducted into the Yogi ministry. But Sharma- who belongs to the Mirzapur region- has been appointed as the BJP’s state vice president for UP, a position from which he will work further to consolidate his position. Now some late TV reports suggest that Yogi has been given an assurance by the BJP that he will be repeated as the chief ministerial candidate.
Four years ago when Yogi Adityanath was anointed the chief minister, he was not the first choice of Modi. The then minister of state for telecom Manoj Sinha was Modi’s preferred choice. In fact Modi was impressed by Sinha’s competence and low profile and preferred a man like him. But the appointment of Sinha had to be jettisoned because RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat indicated his strong preference for Yogi Adityanath. His reasons were that Adityanath was the pontiff of the Gorakhnath Peeth at Gorakhpur that was traditionally seen as a non- Brahmin institution. Moreover Adityanath (born in 1972) was young and besides being an MP since 1998 was very energetic. His area of work was Purvachal (eastern UP) and he had consolidated power in that area. Adityanath was a full time chief of the religious Gorakhnath Trust and was always dressed in saffron clothes. Unsaid this would play up the Hindu sentiments and be beneficial to the BJP. Sinha although competent as an administrator, would score low on this score. Now Sinha has been set up as the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir.
Sections of the BJP were however uncomfortable with Adityanath because of his penchant for following an independent line. For instance in 2010 when the Women Reservation line came up for voting, Yogi took up a position contradicting the official BJP line. After being appointed as the Chief Minister too, Yogi has taken a very strident line. “The feeling in Delhi is that he pursues an independent line and is not seen taking up the official line always,” said a political analyst. He said that Yogi also probably knows that this is the reason why he is spending a lot of money in advertising in the national press. This is expected to build his image among the public. But the hardcore among the Sangh adherents may find his extremely hard line as something that is appreciable. Analysts aver that Yogi’s line will bring in increased support from some sections of the Hindus but would be rejected by the secular sections and also the minorities.
Interestingly a few days ago the Press Information Bureau gave out an official denial that there were plans to trifurcate Uttar Pradesh into west Uttar Pradesh, east Uttar Pradesh (Purvachal) and Bundelkhand. The denial, analysts averred was more prominent than the original reports. Such reports would likely not be to the liking of Yogi Adityanath because if that happens it would reduce his influence if not cut him to size. Before being appointed as chief minister Adityanath was the most active in Purvachal. But the reports are now expected to cease with Yogi being promised a second term.
With opposition parties like the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) reduced to a rump, there is only the Samajwadi Party (SP) led by Akhilesh Yadav that will be the main opponent of the Yogi led BJP in UP. How things work out in the run up to the elections is a matter for speculation now. But it would be an interesting battle between Yogi and his detractors.