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Thursday, June 20, 2024

The rise and rise of Yogi Adityanath

From the cinders of crises emerges elusive chance. Posterity will probably remember prime minister Narendra Modi’s elephantine fiscal package of Rs 20 lakh crore to reboot the economy from scratch as that circumstance. It required a bolt from the blue like the Chinese coronavirus for the government to cross the Rubicon.

Let us, however, not forget that it was the saffron robed chief minister of Bharat’s biggest state, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, and his counterpart from neighboring Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj S. Chouhan, who first ran the trailer for the big picture. Though Chouhan’s initiative came 48 hours before Yogi’s, it was only after the latter’s announcement that the measures got the attention they deserved.

Land, labor, liquidity and laws have been sitting ducks for overhaul for as long as one can think. Greed wholly ousted self-reliance as the mantra of a nation whose ancient values are anchored in dharma. Destiny was probably waiting for the right leader(s) to handhold us to the future. Resistance, unlikely as it may seem given the mounting insecurities, will almost certainly invite self-destruct.

With multinationals itching to extricate themselves from the Dragon’s asphyxiating embrace, Yogi probably realized this was the chance to take time by the forelock. The Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labor Laws Ordinance, 2020, dated May 6 completely exempts factories and establishments from all but four laws for three years. It is revolutionary given the almost impregnable wall built around trade union rights since Independence. Workers during this period will be denied the right to form a grievance redressal mechanism, much less a union. Timely payment of wages and compensation is all they can expect.

Preceding the shake-up in the industrial sector were the sweeping changes in the agricultural domain. No farmer will henceforth be required to sell his produce through touts in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. Political interference in a body originally formed to protect farmers against the wiles of private traders had over the years deteriorated into a den of graft. Farmers will be allowed to sell directly to buyers at a price of their choice. The private sector, on its part, will also be permitted to host their own mandi.

Bold labor reforms are only the latest in a series of measures taken by Yogi that is changing the landscape of Uttar Pradesh. This, after being ruled by two of Bharat’s most venal and parasitical political parties for the better part of the last three decades. While the Mulayam Singh Yadav (also known as Mullah Mulayam) led Samajwadi Party reduced the state to a criminal harborage of fellow caste members and the Muslim mafia, the Mayawati run Bahujan Samaj Party made the region a Dalit stomping ground to get back at upper castes and OBCs alike. By 2017 both parties had run out of steam.

It is no secret that Yogi, a five consecutive term Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur, was not the first choice of Narendra Modi for the CM’s job. He wanted the low-profile Manoj Sinha, a competent three-time MP with a spotless reputation, but lacking a political base. Sinha’s appointment was virtually sealed when the Sangh lobbed a spanner on behalf of the now 48-year-old mahant of the Gorakhnath math. Without Yogi the BJP’s record tally of 324 seats would probably have been slashed by a sizeable 70-80 in the eastern belt.

Posterity will thank the noble men of Nagpur a thousand times for not only acknowledging Yogi’s role in the party’s electoral sweep, but also sending a gentle message that if the nation can be ruled by a party and leader wedded to saffron values, why not someone clad in actual saffron robes. Someone whose very life encapsulates the soul of Bharat. Yogi’s appointment as CM was a veritable sock in the face of the secular brigade. Seeing tired old Nehruvians ejaculate with horror was in itself cause for celebration.

Kalyan Singh was the only other CM comparable to Yogi in resoluteness. His first reign between June 1991 to December 1992 in which the BJP had a clear majority came to an abrupt end with the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Eighteen months, however, were more than enough to give evidence of his Hindutva credentials. Determined to build the Ram temple, he acquired 2.77 acres of land around the mosque vide a government notification to promote tourism. The Lodhi leader’s second stint between September 1997 to November 1999 is remembered for directing government schools to begin their day by paying obeisance to Bharat Mata.

Yogi’s rule has proved a blessing for Uttar Pradesh. Never before has the lawless state been ruled by an iron fisted leader respected for his sincerity and incorruptibility even by diehard political enemies. Given his familiarity with the workings of the mafia in the badlands of east UP, criminals were the first to be clobbered.  The police were given full powers to bring them to justice. Scores have either been consigned to the creator or made to rot in jail in the last three years.

Illegal slaughter houses were shut, and anti-CAA protests by the Break-Bharat gang proactively suppressed. A budgetary allocation of Rs 122 crore has been made to modernize the police, a long overdue measure ignored by the corrupt regimes of the past. An industrial corridor exclusively aimed at manufacturing defense equipment is in the works. Hindu festivals like Diwali are celebrated with full aplomb in Ayodhya. The 2019 Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj was perhaps the best ever organized. Yogi, in fact, is the only CM of a BJP ruled state who is executing the Hindutva agenda with unswerving dedication.

The only grouse against Yogi is his inaccessibility. Barring four or five favored  bureaucrats with a Gorakhpur connect, few get to see him. He shuns the media, and his own party colleagues complain of his reclusive nature. Some allege that additional chief secretary Awanish Awasthi who holds charge of home and information is the power behind the CM. Others rely on the state BJP’s powerful general secretary (organization), Sunil Bansal, to get their work done. Most transfers and postings also happen at Bansal’s behest.

Yogi watchers, however, explain that the monk is not a micro manager like Modi. He does not think it is the CM’s job to poke his nose in every nook and cranny of governance. Enforcing the Hindutva agenda in all its purity, ensuring law and order, and weeding out graft from the system top his agenda. For a leader who has been in power for barely three years, reliance on the bureaucracy cannot be wished away. But he is learning fast. The impression that a few officers are calling the shots on his behalf is stuff and nonsense. Diminutive Yogi is tough as nails by temperament. Once he has made up his mind, there is no power on earth which can move him.

Yogi’s political future will necessarily depend on whether he can bring the BJP back to power in UP in 2022. If he does, and there is no reason to believe he cannot, he will be a front runner for the top job in 2029 by which time Modi will be touching 80, and probably ride into the sunset.

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Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh is an independent journalist who has worked in senior editorial positions in the Times Of India, Asian Age, Pioneer, and the Statesman. Also a sometime stage and film actor who has worked with iconic directors like Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha.



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