B S Yediyurappa, former Chief Minister of Karnataka in India and the leader who established Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka, told his successor B Bommai, “let Muslims live peacefully and respectfully”.
Yediyurappa, a lifetime Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member, spoke and not a moment too soon as Karnataka drew huge censure for fringe Hindutva outfit campaigns that target minorities and minority owned businesses.
From breaking the carts of poor Muslims, who sell fruit on the street, to asking for economic boycott — the once shining unicorn hub of Bengaluru is now suffering a brand beating.
So what are the takeaways from Yediyurappa’s comments. The first: Yediyurappa is the first leader of stature within the BJP to take a stand and publicly condemn the attack on the minorities in Karnataka.
The second and more important one which does not bode well for the rule of law is that Yogi Adityanath, second term chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, who enjoys his moniker of “Baba bulldozer” (getting alleged criminals properties bulldozed) is the new role model for BJP leaders across India.
Bulldozing their way
Take the case of Shivraj Singh Chauhan, multiple term chief minister of Madhya Pradesh (MP). Earlier during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-era, Chauhan cultivated the image of a moderate leader taking enormous pride in the fact that he did not discriminate against minorities.
Now with Yogi as his inspiration, Chauhan is getting the homes of many people bulldozed for alleged stone throwing on the festival of Ram Navmi. Yes you read it right. Homes being bulldozed without a court order or an appeal or for that matter any paperwork.
Chauhan’s home minister made a public threat that those who throw stones will have their homes reduced to stones and then the bulldozers moved in.
While the public violence did take place, only one side is facing the bulldozing of their homes. The rule of law means equality in the eyes of the State between all Indian citizens. Clearly this principle is not being followed in MP.
Chauhan in his zeal to ensure that he doesn’t lose his chair to many rivals in the BJP, including new entrant Jyotiraditya Scindia, who pulled down the Kamal Nath led Congress government when he defected to the BJP (and who is currently civil aviation minister in the Modi government), has his heart set on his dream job — CM of MP.
Then there is Kailash Vijayvargiya, who has long been a Chauhan baiter. Scindia’s son Aryaman has recently joined cricket administration in MP and is looking at a political career.
Facing the heat from rivals, Chauhan has raised the communal temperature so much so that he is now addressed as “Mamaji bulldozer” to his great delight. Chauhan is universally addressed as “Mamaji” in MP.
There is a competition to outdo Yogi Adityanath on extreme measures between BJP CMs in the Hindi heartland. Some CMs are already on record that they will impose a Uniform Civil Code in their respective states.
How they plan to do so without Parliament having passed the law, is unclear but, all the recent moves are aimed at imposing a majoritarian agenda.
The reaction to the majoritarian agenda by India’s leaders across the Hindi heartland is indicative — except for former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, no one takes on the BJP. They try and simply side step the BJP and publicly display their faith. So Yediyurappa is a voice in the void unlikely to be heeded.
Yogi Adityanath’s convincing win for his second term in India’s politically most important state of UP, which has given a fillip to Modi 3.0 in 2024 has ensured that the BJP thinks it now has huge support for communalising the polity.
Consider, Arvind Kejriwal, AAP chief and Delhi chief minister who led his party to an unprecedented victory in Punjab. He simply side steps the BJP when it comes to taking a stand on communal issues. Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University were recently attacked by a communal mob who wanted to police food choices.
The trigger for the violence: non vegetarian food being served in the campus mess. Kejriwal has maintained a resolute silence on the issue, not offering any consolation to the students or even bothering to visit JNU.
Kejriwal quietly sidesteps contentious issues which is now his preferred way of taking on the BJP. How long he can continue doing this is debatable as the AAP also plans to contest the Gujarat election — BJP’s citadel for decades.
With Yogi Adityanath emerging as the uber Hindutva mascot at only 49, the race to outdo Yogi is now truly on in the BJP. The winner will get huge prizes and a possible punt at India’s top job. Let us hope that India’s minorities don’t have to suffer for these power games.