In Race for UP CM, Adityanath Pipped Manoj Sinha in the Last Lap
Manoj Sinha would’ve been the Centre’s dummy while Yogi Adityanath can lead to Hindu consolidation ahead of 2019.
Union Minister of State (independent charge) for IT Manoj Sinha was all set to be chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. He was given a go ahead by both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah four days before the BJP legislature party meeting last Sunday.
It only needed a formality of elected legislators choosing Sinha as the next CM. Sinha had embarked on a thanksgiving visit to the Kaal Bhairav and Kashi Vishwanath temples in Varanasi. A huge cavalcade of over 100 cars had been planned for him to take him to Lucknow on 19 March, the day the newly elected legislators were to meet at 4 pm. Sinha had no inkling that the ground beneath his feet had shifted.
Honouring RSS’ Advice
The script, however, started changing from the morning of 18 March with a call from the RSS top brass, most likely its general secretary Suresh ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Joshi to Amit Shah, requesting that the BJP should “consider Yogi Adityanath for the CM’s post”.
Shah consulted Modi and a decision was taken to “honour RSS’ advice”.
The process to make Adityanath the CM began immediately. Sinha was informed about the decision. He halted in his tracks in Varanasi. In fact, he had already issued a statement to the media the day before (17 March) that he was not in the race for chief ministership. That came in handy as an escape route.
The second task was to take BJP UP President Keshav Prasad Maurya into confidence. He was summoned to Delhi from Lucknow and informed of the decision. He was told by Shah that his commitment and hard work would be suitably rewarded. It was then that the party decided to have two deputy chief ministers: One would be Maurya, the other Dr Dinesh Sharma, the Lucknow mayor considered close to Modi.
How Yogi was Parachuted
The next move was to locate the firebrand Yogi. He was in his mutt in Gorakhpur. He was tipped off that Amit Shah wanted to meet him urgently and a chartered aircraft was being flown to Gorakhpur to ferry him to the national capital. In Delhi, Shah told him that the party wanted him to hold the reigns of UP. He also instructed him to meet Modi immediately. Yogi rushed to the prime minister's 7, Race Course Road residence and could meet Modi only for a few minutes as he had to leave for Dehradun to attend the swearing-in ceremony of new chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.
Now, he had barely enough time to fly to Lucknow. Yogi rushed to his Gurudwara Rakabganj Road residence, packed his bag within 5 minutes and left for the airport. He was joined there by party in-charge of UP affairs Om Prakash Mathur and Maurya. A chartered aircraft was waiting for them at the Delhi airport. They reached Lucknow at 3 pm and rushed straight into the legislature party meeting scheduled for 4 pm.
Yogi then embarked on “fast forward” mode, working almost 16-18 hours a day. He reached Delhi on 21 March but his schedule was so packed with official engagements that he could stay at his official residence for barely 3-4 minutes before rushing off to Lucknow. Even his closest supporters were unable to meet him because of his hectic schedule and impregnable security.
Timeline of Yogi’s Anointment as CM
- 18 March: Suresh ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Joshi requests Amit Shah
to consider Yogi Adityanath for the CM’s post.
- Shah and Modi decide to ‘honour RSS’ advice’;
Manoj Sinha is informed about the decision.
- Sinha’s statement on 17 March about not being in CM
race came in handy as an escape route.
- Keshav Prasad Maurya summoned to Delhi, pacified by
offering the Deputy CM’s position.
- 19 March: Yogi Adityanath sworn-in as the 21st
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Why RSS Favoured Yogi
Adityanath is known to be a high-headed person and a rabid Hindutva zealot. He doesn't have a good rapport with Modi though he enjoys good vibes with Shah.
He left the BJP's last national executive meeting in Delhi in a huff because he was not allowed to speak. Having raised his own youth brigade – Hindu Yuva Vahini – he was not even in the RSS’ good books. He had fielded his own candidates against the BJP’s official candidates at least twice when the party did not accommodate them.
But it was his Hindutva credentials and the RSS’ determination to assert itself that saw Yogi being pitchforked suddenly.
Why Sinha was First Choice
The Shah-Modi combine seems to have evolved a formula to choose a chief minister. After winning Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, the duo installed CMs with the following qualities:
1) A strong RSS connect. Sinha, having won the BHU students’ union presidential election as an Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad candidate, should have been the perfect choice.
2) Should be of a caste not dominant in the state. Manohar Lal Khattar is a Punjabi Khatri in Jat- and Gujjar-dominated Haryana, Raghubar Das is a Bengali in tribal Jharkhand and Devendra Fadnavis a Brahmin in Maratha-dominated Maharashtra. A Bhumihar, Sinha fitted the bill as the community has a minuscule presence in UP.
3) The person should not have a personal clout of his own. Sinha is a two-term MP, having earlier won in 1999.
4) Shouldn't be a high-profile person. Sinha, despite holding key ministries such Railways and IT, has maintained a very low profile, with regard to coverage by the media.
5) Most importantly, a person suitable for the CM’s position should enjoy implicit support of both Modi and Shah. Being in charge of Modi's parliamentary constituency, Varanasi, Sinha is a confidante of the top duo.
What Helped Yogi
Adityanath, ranked very low on the parameters set by Modi-Shah for CM candidates, is high-profile, has a strong popular base, belongs to the dominant Rajput caste, is not an RSS favourite, and is a five-term MP.
His only quality is his Hindutva image which could come in handy in rolling out the BJP’s plan for pan-Hindu consolidation for the 2019 general elections.
The RSS rooted for him not because it developed a sudden fondness for him but because he could be an assertive CM. Sinha, despite being an RSS insider, would have remained the Centre's dummy. BJP leaders bowed to the RSS demand as the latter decided to go public with their choice of Yogi. Modi and Shah could ill afford to antagonise the RSS at this critical juncture – barely two years before the next general elections. They therefore went along with Yogi reluctantly.
(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. He can be reached @sharadgupta1. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.