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Yogi ADITYANATH'S ABBA JAAN Remark || MIdweek Matters 30

06-10-2021published_dt 2021-10-06T07:21:47.687Z06-10-2021 12:51:47 IST
2021-10-06T07:21:47.687Z06-10-2021 2021-10-06T07:21:47.687Z - - 18-01-2022

Hello and Welcome 

To Midweek Matters.

The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has unmistakably set the tone for the BJP's campaign for the state Assembly elections which are scheduled for early next year. A few days ago he addressed a public gathering in Kushinagar. While listing out the achievements of his administration he slipped in the dark sub text of his party's messaging. He said "Under PM Modi's leadership there is no place for appeasement politics…. Before 2017 was everyone able to get ration? Earlier only those who used to say Abba Jaan were cornering the ration." Today I want to speak to you about how the remark was so very predictable, and how it simply followed a pattern that is now quite normal under the New BJP. I will also try to trace the origins of these dog whistle remarks, calculated to summon the base instincts of hatred in people, to the past two decades which also coincided with the meteoric rise of the political career of our present Prime Minister. This period also saw the shaping of the New BJP. 

Those who have not seen the UP CM utter these words should see it. And those who have seen it, I would urge them to see the clip again. Let me play the relevant part now. But before I play Yogi Adityanath's clip, I want you to take particular note of the way the Abba Jaan remark was delivered. It was not uttered in a long breathless rhetorical flow. Before he said, "Abba Jaan kehne wale ration hazam kar jaate the," please notice the deliberate pause by the Yogi, the radiant smile on the Yogi's face, as though he was about to deliver something very significant, weighty, meaningful and pregnant with profound import, but delivered in a cryptic manner. The Yogi's pause and mischievous smile signalled to his audience to be prepared to decipher the inner meaning of what he was about to proclaim. He made the crowd wait in anticipation for a few seconds. The Yogi did everything necessary, calculated to deliver his lines with effect. Now, please take a look at the clip. 

Don’t miss the lusty cheering of his audience after he delivered his message. Those who were outraged by this unambiguously communal slur were the usual suspects. Opposition parties and some people on the social media platforms who are at odds with the emerging New India under the New BJP. I will spend a few more minutes on Uttar Pradesh before moving on to the larger ideological issue and share my reflections on the sharpening of the Hindutva narrative of the New BJP. 

The New BJP made it amply clear that they do not need the support of the largest minority in UP to win elections and wrest power. It has not fielded a single Muslim candidate in both the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. In both the elections the party had a resounding success. Electorally it’s now established that the New BJP does not need the minorities. There is something more important than that. The New BJP also makes it clear that it does not want the Muslims. It 'others' the Muslims. Not needing the minorities electorally is very different from not wanting them politically. I want you to reflect on the significance of the distinction. It shows that the New BJP, a party that is now the largest political party in the country, has made a clear and conscious decision that it need not be, and not willing to be, India in microcosm. It doesn’t want, in its composition, to contain all the various sections of our diverse society. In other words it is unwilling to let the cross section of the state to be represented in it. Violent incidents targeting beef eaters, lynching people on suspicion that they hid cow meat in their homes or transported it were a result of this message of 'othering'. While they were acts of vigilantism by the impulsive and unthinking foot soldiers, at the policy level the othering is reinforced by well thought out, but unwarranted, legislations aimed at Population Control.

However, in a conclave titled Rashtra Pratham, Rashtra Sarvatopari, the Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, the Party's ideological mentor, said that Hindus and Muslims share the same ancestry. As we can see, neither the party nor its mentor would strain to square practice with precept. 

The old BJP had a three fold formulation on dealing with the Muslim question: tiraskar, meaning rejection of Muslims; puraskar, meaning appeasement; parishkar, meaning change by offering the community samskar. The Old BJP opted for the third one, parishkar with samskar. It felt that it was not possible to reject the community, so no tiraskar. It is not good to appease them, and it found fault with the Congress for doing it, so puraskar is out of question. It opted for Parishkar. Accommodate the community with an intention to change it and ultimately assimilate it in the long run. The New BJP, however, seems to have revised this position and opted for an outright tiraskar. The population legislations in Assam and now in Uttar Pradesh, the NRC-CAA, and the recent announcement by the Prime Minister of observing August 14th as the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day are some of the clear pointers to "othering" the Muslim community and rejecting them, Tiraskar. Studied and meaningful silence on communal slogans by vigilante groups, hateful rants by yati maharajs, minority bashing comments by some of the party's state level legislators reinforces the preference for Tiraskar project.

Tiraskar and sharp othering of Muslims and minorities as a political project has its beginnings in Gujarat. That was the Petri dish. During the 2002 campaign for the Assembly elections, Chief Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly referred to the then Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh as James Michael Lyngdoh to tell the Hindu voters that the CEC was a Christian and was bent on troubling him, a Hindu. He made it a point to call the Pakistan President Mian Musharraf. In 2012 Assembly elections Modi said he was the BJP CM candidate, but the congress did not declare its candidate. He told the election rallies that the Congress planned to make Ahmed Mian the CM if it were voted. He repeatedly referred to the Congress leader Ahmed Patel as Ahmed Mian to upfront drive home the point that the contest was between Hindu Modi and Muslim Patel. The BJP's practice of not fielding a single Muslim candidate from a state either for Assembly or Lok Sabha too began in Gujarat. UP under Yogi just follows the template. Modi was often referred to as Hindu Hruday Samrat in Gujarat those days. As is Yogi Adityanath is feted these days in UP. 

The experiment with the Hindutva Paradigm of Tiraskar began in Gujarat even as Atal Bihari Vajpayee's musings penned from Kumarakom were still fresh in people's memory. Please allow me to quote Vajpayee a bit elaborately. It will give you an idea of how far away the New BJP has travelled from the party's proclaimed creed by its tallest leader at the turn of the present century. Towards the conclusion of his musings, Vajpayee said:

"Sometimes…we get so involved in our own narrow concerns and so obsessed with our own specific identities, that we tend to ignore the chief source of our national pride and strength – namely, India’s diversity and her essential unity. Some of our citizens focus too much on one or the other aspect of our diversity, ignoring the common national bonds that unite us. Others ignore our diversity and, instead, tend to overemphasise only certain aspects of our national unity. In my view, both approaches are flawed.

Diversity does not permit divisiveness or exclusiveness. Similarly, unity cannot be achieved through uniformity." 

He continued,

"In this context, I must confess that the growing trend of intolerance which I see in our society today worries me deeply. This trend must be checked.

India belongs equally to all her citizens and communities, not more to some and less to others."

The 2004 shock defeat of BJP led to divergent conclusions and set the stage for the ascendancy of the New BJP that we see today, the New BJP that has decided to cut the silken bonds of national unity that Vajpayee talked about. On the one hand Vajpayee felt that the Gujarat violence was a major factor in the defeat of his party. Asked if Gujarat riots led to his party's defeat, Vajpayee said, and I quote the PTI report, "It is very difficult to say what are all the reasons for the defeat…but one impact of the violence is that we lost the elections." His reading of the 2004 verdict was, to quote him again from the same PTI report, "the people of the country have decided that such a bloodbath will not be allowed to take place anywhere in future." That was Old BJP. 

On the other hand, however, the New BJP that was being incubated around the same time in Gujarat read a different message in the 2004 results. It felt that of the three pods on which the party's electoral strength rested, two were intact: vyakti and vikas. But that was insufficient. The third one, vichardhara was weak under Vajpayee. That is, the Hindutva vichardhara. Consolidation of the Hindu and othering of minorities. That was vigorously  implemented in 2007, 20012 and 2017 in Gujarat. It yielded success, both in successive state elections and in national elections in  2019. Therefore, for the New BJP it is vyakti and vichardhara, instead of vyakti and vikas as under the old BJP. The vichardhara today comes not alone, but as an ensemble: slapping sedition charges, stifling of dissent, using investigating agencies to harass critics, controlling and co-opting media houses, scuttling discussion in Parliament, demonising protest movements, suppression of data, coining attractive slogans, conducting spectacular events, and headline management. 

In UP one can see the vyakti in Yogi, and the vichardhara in Abba Jaan remark.  In just a few months from now we will know if the people will reward the New BJP's political project in UP and beyond, or force it to rethink its vichardhara of tiraskar and its accompaniments. 

That’s all for this week, will be back again next week,

Wednesday at lunchtime, 1:00 o’clock. 

Stay safe and do take good care of yourselves and all your dear ones. 

Until then, Bye.