New UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s Tryst With Free (Hate?) Speech
Given a chance, the man says he would place Ganesh idols in every mosque. He wants those opposing the Surya Namaskar to leave India or drown themselves in the ocean. And thinks Shah Rukh Khan sounds like Hafiz Saeed when the actor complains of growing intolerance in Indian society.
Yet Yogi Adityanath’s critics and supporters alike would agree that it is his firebrand version of Hindutva that has played a key role in getting him where he is today – poised to be the next Chief Minister of India’s most electorally significant state.
Minority-Friendly? Not Yogi
In a television interview in the run-up to the UP Assembly elections, Yogi Adityanath defended changing the names of places with Muslim names to those with Hindu names. Gorakhpur’s Miyan Bazaar was changed to Maya Bazaar, Ali Nagar to Arya Nagar, Urdu Bazaar to Hindi Bazaar, and so on.
It’s not just Adityanath’s stance on the nomenclature of places, however, that has given him an image of being ‘unfriendly’ towards minority communities. It’s what the five-time MP has said in the past. In September 2014, Adityanath had told a rally in Noida:
There have been 450 riot cases in West UP in two-and-a-half years of Samajwadi Party rule because the population of a particular community is rising manifold. Why are there no riots in Eastern UP? You can easily understand. In places where there are 10 to 20% minorities, stray communal incidents take place. Where there are 20 to 35% of them, serious communal riots take place and where they are more than 35%, there is no place for non-Muslims.
In the buildup to the polls, Adityanath positioned himself to the electorate as someone who would safeguard the communal ‘demographic balance’ of Uttar Pradesh.
Issues like the exodus of Hindus from Kairana, love jihad and women’s safety will dominate the poll scene. Yogi is not talking about today, Yogi is talking about the future. The BJP will not let western Uttar Pradesh turn into another Kashmir. Political leaders in this country speak against the majority community in the name of secularism. Governments in UP give land for kabristans (graveyards) but not for shamshanghats (cremation grounds).
Despite multiple reports finding little basis to the allegations of a forced Hindu exodus from Kairana, Adityanath had said in June last year:
When Adityanath Wished He Could Place a Hindu Idol in Every Mosque
Adityanath was speaking at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’ in Varanasi.
At a temple ceremony in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of PM Narendra Modi, Adityanath had declared that those opposing the surya namaskar, a salutation to the sun, should leave the country. Or better still, drown in the ocean.
When Yogi Compared SRK to 26/11 Mastermind Hafiz Saeed
Yogi Adityanath was not amused when Shah Rukh Khan entered the debate on rising intolerance in India. SRK had remarked that there was “nothing worse than religious intolerance and that it would take India to the Dark Ages.” He retaliated with what can only be called a warning to the actor.
‘Mother Teresa? She Was a Christian Conspirator’
Mother Teresa may have won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work for the poorest of the poor. But that wasn’t enough to win praise from Yogi Adityanath. In June last year, the BJP MP referred to Teresa as a member of an alleged conspiracy to ‘Christianise’ India.
On the same day, he was also reported as commenting on Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir issue, saying no one could prevent its construction.
Yogi Adityanath will be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday. With the general election barely two years away, how will the ascension of the firebrand leader affect the BJP’s fortunes? Moreover, what will its impact be on national politics? The answer to those questions, as to many others, lies in 2019.