The man who supported Trump’s immigration ban and suggested it be replicated in India is now the leader of the biggest, most populous, most politically significant state in India. With rising right-wing populism of particular interest in the international press, here’s how leading publications reacted to Yogi Adityanath’s appointment as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister.
1. The Guardian
Mr Adityanath’s contempt for democratic norms cannot be dismissed as mere rhetoric, argues The Guardian in its editorial published on Monday. This is put in the context of the responsibility he has been entrusted with.
The argument that once in power the BJP would become more reasonable does not wash. There’s little sign India’s constitutional protections would enable the BJP to continue in power while the dynamics of its wider movement are kept in check. Mr Adityanath, now a powerful figure, is signalling that in India minorities exist merely on the goodwill of the majority. Step out of line and there will be blood. For some of India’s 140 million Muslims, the threat is enough to see them debate withdrawing from public life to avoid further polarisation. Mr Modi’s BJP is full of religious zealots. He himself claimed plastic surgeons in ancient India grafted an elephant head on to a human thousands of years ago. The BJP’s skill is producing a circus to divert attention from how poorly the country is doing. This has been successful: voters overwhelmingly endorsed Mr Modi’s decision last November to cancel high-value banknotes – the so-called demonetisation of 86% of all currency – which they were told was a key anti-corruption reform. The public, and especially the poor, appear to put up with the chaos because they wrongly believe the rich suffered more
“This is a nation that once was said to succeed inspite of the gods. Now it is going backwards because of them” – is how The Guardian ends its takedown.
2. The New York Times
Ellen Barry of The New York Times called Yogi Adityanath’s appointment a “turning point for a government that has, until now, steered clear of openly embracing far-right Hindu causes.”
Barry quotes Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow in the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who says, “The only conclusion one can draw is that he (Modi) feels the base is mobilised and that they helped deliver this, and that there would be a pushback if they did not get something in return.”
Mr Adityanath has openly called for India to be enshrined as a “Hindu rashtra,” or Hindu nation, and supports the rebuilding of a temple to the Hindu god Ram, also known as Rama, on the site of a razed 16th-century mosque, a project that was halted after it incited bloody religious riots in the 1990s. With the appointment, Mr Modi “is unveiling a vision of benign majoritarianism,” said Shekhar Gupta, a longtime editor and political talk show host. “That means it’s a Hindu country, that’s the fact, and we’ll be nice to you if you behave yourself.” For Mr Modi, the appointment represents a “final rejection of Nehruvian socialism, which almost gave the minorities a slightly exalted status,” said Mr Gupta, referring to Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister and independence leader. Mr Adityanath, who is often seen wearing the saffron robes of a Hindu priest, told followers he would focus on Mr Modi’s economic agenda.NYT
3. The Economist
In a short editorial take on Yogi Adityanath’s appointment as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, The Economist notes the BJP won 312 seats in the state legislature without fielding a single Muslim candidate.
Mr Adityanath, who has a long record of bigoted and inflammatory rhetoric, has named just one Muslim to his 43-person cabinet. Some analysts say Mr Modi chose a controversial sectarian as reward for his most ideological followers’ crucial grassroots help in the voting. Others say that with his prospects for re-election in 2019, strengthened by winning a state with 220m people, Mr Modi simply has less fear of revealing a darker Hindu-nationalist tint.The Economist
“He recently praised a travel ban ordered by US President Donal Trump to block immigration from a group of Muslim-majority countries, saying India needed something similar” – that’s how BBC’s South Asia analyst Anbarasan Ethirajan explains Yogi Adityanath to the foreign audience.
Liberals in India are asking “Why him?” but the Hindu nationalists retort by saying: “Why not?”. The BJP leaders probably believe that their election formula of consolidating the votes of the Hindu majority will help them to sail through the next general elections. It’s a double-edged strategy: it may succeed or could galvanise the disparate opposition parties to come together. The rise of Hindu nationalists has already triggered concerns among India’s religious minorities, and the choice of Mr Adityanath is likely to intensify them.BBC
5. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera’s report echoed the surprise in India over the “rise of the Hindu priest-turned-politician in Uttar Pradesh, a state prone to sectarian strife.”
A five-time MP from the BJP, Adityanath is a popular leader known for his fiery Hindu rhetoric who has stirred controversies over his polarising and inflammatory speeches against Muslims – who form nearly 20 percent of the state’s population. Most recently, he lauded US President Trump’s travel ban that aimed to halt immigrants from a handful of Muslim-majority countries from entering the country, saying India needed similar action to check “terrorism”. Adityanath has often fanned flames over religious conversions, inter-religion marriages, and has reportedly been arrested and charged with several crimes in the past including rioting, attempt to murder and trespassing on burial places. He has also supported strong laws for cow protection, and said minority groups that oppose yoga should either leave the country or drown themselves in the sea.
6. The Washington Post
The headline sets the tone of what The Washington Post elaborates on in this editorial co-authored by Swati Gupta and Annie Gowen.
Known as a controversial and fiery orator, he has vowed to cleanse India of other religions and in 2014 suggested that mosques feature Hindu deities. “This is the century of Hindutva, not just in India but in the entire world,” he said. He once accused Mother Teresa of being part of a conspiracy to Christianise India and likened a well-known Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan, to a terrorist. At one rally, Adityanath vowed, “If one Hindu girl marries a Muslim man, then we will take 100 Muslim girls in return.” He went on, “If they [Muslims] kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men.” He was arrested in 2007 and spent 11 days in prison for violating prohibitory orders in what was deemed a “communally sensitive area,” with tensions between the Muslim and Hindu communities. He had 18 criminal cases registered against him, according to one tally during the 2014 parliamentary elections, including attempted murder, criminal intimidation and rioting.