Saturday, March 18, 2017

The ‘Trump’ Moment: Modi-Shah gives up "silent doer" Manoj Sinha, opts for 'hardliner' Yogi

Even in the past, the BJP had preferred hardliner leaders including the likes of Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh and Dilip Singh Judeo.

The election of hardliner Yogi Adityanath as new legislature party in Uttar Pradesh shows that the party has decided to opt for a "popular face" and a "hardliner" instead of the silent doer and low-profile Manoj Sinha.
In high drama that prevailed for hours especially till the eleventh hour today, the elevation of soft spoken lawmaker and Union Minister Manoj Sinha was "stalled" even as an attempt was being made by the moderates in the party to push his case earlier in the day.
The party seemed to have rather helplessly endorsed the overwhelming views of the party legislators with Kailash Vijayvargiya almost echoing the spirit when he said, "If MLAs have taken a decision, you and I should not have anything to say about it".
In the ultimate analysis, Yogi's popularity and MLAs backing him openly tilted the balance. Many see the decision as a move also to balance power games within the BJP as over last few months -- the entire party apparatus seemed to have been in the grip of Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo.
"It is true, there is a balancing act. Now, we will have another power centre in the politics of BJP as Yogi Adityanath would have control over 325 MLAs and will be a future leader of at least over 50 MPs in 2019," a party leader said.

That there was more to it when Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu claimed there was "unanimity" in BJP's selection of Yogi, the fact that the party had to decide about two deputy chief ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya (an OBC) and Dinesh Sharma (a Brahmin) showed that there ought to be right caste balancing as well.

Yogi Adityanath - born as Ajay Singh - is a Thakur by caste.
Incidentally, the last BJP Chief Minister in 2002 in the form of Rajnath Singh was also a Thakur.  
By pushing the case of Manoj Sinha, Ghazipur MP, the moderates wanted to give a message 
that in Sinha's elevation, there would be a larger message that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rewarded a "silent doer and an workaholic" -- who perhaps also reflected Modi-Amit Shah's choice of a 'caste-neutral' neta.
Some BJP leaders said here even hours before the final moment that perhaps the planning for possible shifting of Ghazipur MP to Lucknow as the Chief Minister had started sometime back when Sinha was given the key portfolio of Communication Ministry with independent charge.
Both Prime Minister Modi and BJP chief Shah seemed to have spotted the virtues of a "silent doer" in Sinha -  much before all speculation had started over the permutations and combinations vis-a-vis power game in Uttar Pradesh. 

"In July 2016 - when the Independent charge of Communication was given to Sinha, Prime Minister had signaled and virtually dared Manoj Sinha to deliver," a sitting BJP MP said. 
A section of BJP insiders also say that Yogi Adityanath's election also shows that the this time around BJP leadership and legislators had tried to come out of the 'pattern' that was unraveled in 2014. In most elections after 2014 Modi's victory; BJP had opted for low-profile and caste neutral leaders who had the image of performers.  
That way, even Manoj Sinha's 'Bhumihar caste' limited reach in a state -- known for dominant caste politics - was considered his assets. 

In the past in states like Jharkhand, Gujarat and Maharashtra - Modi and Amit Shah duo had opted for "caste-neutral" chief ministerial contenders - Raghubar Das, Vijay Rupani and Devendra Fadnavis respectively.

"In all these, the selection of Rupani in Gujarat and Raghubar Das in Jharkhand was more crucial reflected the pattern. Especially in tribal-stronghold Jharkhand, Modi-Shah team opted for Das and the state is doing pretty well since October-November 2014," another BJP source said.
Politically, it was also believed a low-profile and with a weaker caste idiom Chief Minister would suit Prime Minister's scheme of things in Varanasi and Uttar Pradesh - where Modi remains the "match winner" and the focus on Chief Minister is only on performance.
However, Yogi's election has sought to bring about some changes.
JD(U) leader Pavan Varma mocked at BJP's decision and said, "Yogi Adityanath's decision was natural choice for BJP as he stands for the ideologies of BJP".
However, there is a latent but a crucial caste game too as Modi-Shah duo had tried to a big picture message that  the upper castes in UP has been rewarded.This caste balancing act was a necessity more by default, say BJP watchers as in the last two decades -- under Samajwadi Party and BSP regimes the state only saw either an OBC or a Dalit ruler. 
The upper castes Brahmins and Thakurs have nevertheless always stood by the BJP and voted for the saffron outfit possibly barring 2007 assembly polls when BSP supremo Mayawati had stuck a wonderful social engineering with Dalits and Brahmins.

In the ultimate, the mandate and Yogi Adityanath’s elevation as new UP Chief Minister perhaps shows India is marching fast towards 'Hindu domination'. Importantly, not only the hardliners have prevailed, it is also a sign that RSS and nationalists are continuing to rest their hopes on Narendra Modi to deliver the religious hegemony or to correct the mistakes of the past!
Tail Piece:

The RSS endorsed the decision of newly BJP MLAs for electing Yogi Adityanath as the new Legislature Party Leader and described the move as "the most appropriate decision".

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