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Violent Rhetoric, Hindutva-Driven Policy: What To Expect if BJP Wins Again in UP

The second term in UP will strengthen the BJP’s belief that its Hindutva governance model works for it politically.

Published
Opinion
6 min read
Violent Rhetoric, Hindutva-Driven Policy: What To Expect if BJP Wins Again in UP
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The first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election will be held on 7 February, kicking off the seven-phase polls in the most populous and crucial state of the country. Early surveys pit the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the Samajwadi Party (SP), with a clear edge to the saffron outfit. The BJP is clearly in a pole position, and it is its election to lose.

The elections are being held in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which, by all independent accounts, the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state, have been a failure. The law and order under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has hardly been an improvement from the previous regimes. The year 2020 recorded highest number of murder and kidnapping cases, and crimes against children and Dalits, as per the NCRB data.

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These are only the cases that have found their way to the record books, not to mention various anecdotal evidence proving that it is hard to register FIRs in the state, especially if you are from marginalised communities.

BJP government’s high-handedness in dealing with rape cases, including the forced cremation of a Dalit girl’s body in the dead of the night, only proved the state government’s inability to provide security to women and brush critical issues under the rug.

2022 UP Assembly Elections: Hindutva as Key Poll Plank

Despite failures, there is no visible sentiment of anti-incumbency in Uttar Pradesh against the BJP. A series of ground reports by Scroll’s Arunabh Saikia establishes that despite its poor performance, the BJP in UP has an edge over the Samajwadi Party, its main rival in the state. One of the reasons, according to Saikia’s reports, is a brutal crackdown on criminals from the minority community as over a third of those who died in over 8,000 police encounters were Muslims. The BJP has been able to exploit the religious fault lines in the state.

Ventures such as abrogation of Article 370, construction of Ram Temple, and similar Hindutva planks have helped the BJP burnish its image.
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Yogi Adityanath, since coming to power in 2017, has pursued the Hindutva agenda with full fervour. From changing the names of the cities with Muslim origin to banning the slaughter of not just cows, but also other forms of cattle in the name of licensing, to highly discriminatory laws of religious conversion under the garb of fighting “Love Jihad”.

Politics of hate speech has thrived under Yogi, while police excesses during the CAA-NRC agitations, jailing of Muslims under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and National Security Act (NSA) for exercising their democratic right to protest led the state further down the path where minorities are treated as second-class citizens.

Five years of government in UP have helped the BJP build a governance model where the key is not the overall development of the state but the Hindutva messaging.

Rising inflation, poor law and order, sliding economy and rising unemployment can be overcome with a communal message. Case in point is the advertisement of a man wearing keffiyeh, intended to be portrayed as a Muslim, as the rioter. The BJP’s political rhetoric that Muslims are rioters is now being promoted by a constitutionally elected government, thus becoming part of the policy.

These developments have helped establish the Hindutva credentials of the BJP among the masses and are likely to help in the upcoming Assembly elections.

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BJP After 2022 UP Win: What to Expect?

The BJP’s exclusionary politics has already crept into policy, and a victory in UP would be seen as a clear approval of both.

It would strengthen the BJP’s belief that this politics works, and calls for genocide and open threat to minorities do not hurt its prospects. A focus on Hindutva can help it overcome failures like botching up the COVID-19 response and flailing law and order, allegations of a police state, and atrocities and misuse of its machinery.

If the public approves the politics of the BJP, giving it a clear mandate in UP, the saffron party can clearly take that as an advance approval to policies of the upcoming government, which is likely to be more aggressive than its first term. This aggression may be reflected on the following fronts.

Renaming of Cities

The Hindutva project to change names of cities in India is an effort to erase its Muslim history. It is an old obsession of Yogi Adityanath, who as the Lok Sabha MP of Gorakhpur, changed the name of Urdu Bazar to Hindi Bazar and Ali Nagar to Arya Nagar. The names with Arabic and Urdu origin are a reminder of India under Muslim rule, when most of these cities came into existence. Some of the major cities that underwent a name change during the Yogi Adityanath regime were Allahabad (to Prayagraj), and Faizabad (to Ayodhya).

BJP leaders, including Yogi Adityanath himself, have proposed alternative names for different cities and towns with culturally Muslim names, including Aligarh as Harigarh, Azamgarh as Aryamgarh, and Badaun as Vedamau. A second term of the BJP in UP may very well see these changes in names becoming a reality.
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Restrictions on Food Choices

The second term of the Yogi government is likely to be more brazen on the dietary choices of the people of the state. The unofficial ban on meat during Navratri, usually enforced by Hindutva groups, may enter mainstream, seeping into policies of the government. The BJP government has already banned sale of alcohol and non-vegetarian food in parts of Mathura. There is no stopping the government to extend similar bans in other holy cities, including Varanasi, Ayodhya, and Prayagraj.

'Kashi, Mathura Baaki Hai...'

With the issue of Ayodhya coming to an end, as the Ram Temple construction races towards the finish line with lightning speed, the BJP is also looking for more polarising issues. And what is better than the revival of its old slogan of “Ayodhya to sirf jhanki hai; Kashi, Mathura baaki hai” (Ayodhya is a mere teaser; Kashi and Mathura are still left)?

In recent years, there have been several low-key legal battles with respect to both Shahi Idgah in Mathura and Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi. With explicit support from the BJP and its government, the legal entanglements are going to only get bolder.

In a sign of what could come next, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya last month gave a not-so-subtle call to build a grand temple in Mathura, signalling that it is the next battleground for the Hindutva cause.
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Hate Speeches

The recent hate conclave in Haridwar, repeated calls of genocide by Hindu religious leaders aligned with the BJP, ideologically and politically, and subsequent lack of action shows that they have tacit support from the ruling regime. Yati Narsinghanand, who was recently arrested for hate speech in Uttarakhand, was very explicit in saying that Yogi Adityanath reprimanded a police officer for mulling to invoke Goonda Act against the repeat offender. Yogi Adityanath himself is known for his communal rhetoric against Muslims, and his second term may possibly see further rise of hate speeches in the state.

Crackdown on Religious Conversion

An issue like “Love Jihad”, which was once on the fringes of BJP politics is now so mainstream that it has entered policymaking. The criminalisation of bonafide religious conversion has already taken place in UP, what is left to criminalise in the state is the practice of religion itself. We have recently seen that happening in some states, including Haryana and Karnataka.

In Haryana’s Gurgaon, protesters repeatedly disturbed Friday prayers in public spaces, while Karnataka has reported multiple cases of right-wing fanatics entering churches to disrupt masses, including during Christmas. The disruption of prayers is not a common occurrence in UP, barring a few instances of objection on use of loudspeakers, or restriction on Namaz in parks. But the right wing is likely to be emboldened by the BJP victory in the state, and we may see cases of prayer disruptions in UP too.

The re-election of Yogi Adityanath would strengthen the BJP’s belief that this brand of aggressive Hindutva politics works.
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The highly communal pitch of the BJP, defined by none other than Modi with his shamshan vs kabristan speech, worked in 2017. A second term in UP would ensure that the BJP never lets go of its politics of anti-Muslim rhetoric, propelled by the belief that people would not just vote for the BJP despite its communalism but because of it.

It would mean that hate speeches are acceptable to the BJP, and may even thrive under it. A win in UP will further lead to Hindutva-driven policymaking in the BJP-ruled states, especially in UP.

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Edited By :Saundarya Talwar
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