Yogi vs Modi-Shah: This Round Is Done, Wait for the Next One in UP
Both PM Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath are on a weak wicket as of now. The situation could change in a few weeks time.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has dismissed speculation of a rift within the BJP top brass as a “media creation.”
In an interview to Times of India, Adityanath said that the meetings within the BJP were given a “political spin” to “sensationalise” and “grab eyeballs.”
Meanwhile, speculations of a rift continued with Prime Minister Narendra Modi not putting out a tweet to wish Adityanath on his birthday, on 5 June.
There was also a rumour that the state BJP had removed the PM's picture from a social media graphic, which turned out to be false.
- So, where does the BJP's Uttar Pradesh tussle now stand?
- And has the crisis blown over or are there still unresolved issues?
The Story So Far
Last week, The Quint had reported that at least three important meetings took place regarding the BJP's affairs in Uttar Pradesh:
- A high-profile meeting on 23 May with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president JP Nadda and RSS Sarkaryavah Dattatreya Hosabale in attendance, besides UP BJP general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal.
- Dattatreya Hosabale's visit to Lucknow and his discussions with Sangh functionaries. This took place in the last week of May and was largely aimed at getting feedback about the government and its functioning.
- BJP general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh and UP in-charge Radha Mohan Singh met state leaders, including ministers, in Lucknow.
Following the last set of meetings, Santhosh put out a tweet praising Adityanath's leadership, which signaled that the BJP has decided to persist with his leadership in the run-up to the 2022 Assembly elections.
However, a few developments since have raised doubts about whether some pinpricks still persist.
Radha Mohan Singh met UP governor Anandiben Patel over the weekend and political circles in Lucknow were abuzz with rumours that he had given her an “envelope.”
Then, the PM failing to wish Adityanath on his birthday also raised questions as to why he had departed from his usual practise.
BJP sources said that this was because of the pandemic and that the PM had actually wished Adityanath over phone. However, it remains suspicious as it’s not as if the PM had completely stopped making courtesy wishes over Twitter during the pandemic's second wave.
A Variety of Rumours
A variety of rumours were doing the rounds in UP’s political circles. Though they ranged from conservative to outlandish, their broad thrust was the same – that the status quo in UP may not remain for long. Here are some of the rumours:
- That there would be a Cabinet reshuffle in Uttar Pradesh sometime in July or August. AK Sharma, a former bureaucrat close to Modi, could be included. This would mean that Yogi has given up on his earlier opposition to Sharma.
- Yogi has dug his heels and there would be no Cabinet changes, especially regarding Sharma's inclusion. The extension to this is that Yogi is emerging as an important leader for those BJP supporters who are upset with PM Modi’s handling of the pandemic.
- Modi and Shah may still replace Adityanath soon after the COVID numbers are under control.
- The entire tussle is a way of containing opposition against the state government, with those criticising it being made to feel assured that “PM Modi is also upset with the CM”.
- Modi and Shah may even consider breaking Uttar Pradesh into four or five parts citing (legitimate) administrative reasons but with the aim of cutting Adityanath to size.
Obviously, only one or two, or even none of the rumours may turn out to be true.
Over to the Next Round
It is important to understand the context in which this is happening, which is the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
With neither Modi or Yogi coming out with flying colours in their handling of the COVID crisis, both are on a weak wicket. PM Modi's speech, on 7 June, was a u-turn from his policy of leaving the vaccination process to states. This happened after his government faced flak from the Supreme Court. The PM and Shah’s political capital also reduced following the defeat in West Bengal.
Adityanath too has been facing flak, especially with the rising number of dead bodies being found in the Ganga and the various complaints of mismanagement of the pandemic.
And like Modi and Shah, Yogi too has suffered an electoral reverse in the recent Panchayat elections.
Given that both the Centre and Yogi are under fire, neither seem to have been in a position to act decisively against the other.
What happens next will be determined by whose political position gets strengthened in the next few weeks and months.
For instance, PM Modi's spin doctors are hoping that the 'vaccination for all' promise and the PM's announcement that the Centre would provide rations to the poor until Diwali could help him regain the popularity he may have lost during the second wave.
Adityanath’s government, too, is going to undertake a series of measures to address public dissatisfaction.
It is possible that the next round between the two sides could be played in a few weeks from now.
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