The success of a great leader lies in cloning more leaders and not just adding to an unending list of followers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most followed leader in the world in the social media, voting booths across India and even the far-flung outposts of Bharat.
He doesn’t need to increment his popularity with handouts. Once the godhuli settled over the electionscape of Uttar Pradesh, India’s unconventional Prime Minister sprang a surprise on parrot-proud, partial political pundits by choosing an unexpected chief minister.
With Yogi Adityanath’s ordination, Modi added to his GenNext Power List yet another young leader with a long-term stake in his mission, and the power to turbocharge Hindutva politics.
The selection of the diminutive but decisive monk from Gorakhpur earned him a few enemies and fewer friends. Predictably, the illiberal brigade and the urban elite proved Pavlov right by going after the Prime Minister. They spewed abusive adjectives at him, as if he had imposed on India’s largest state a saffron gunslinger who targets minorities and bovine buffs.
They are habituated to acknowledging the legitimacy of a democratic verdict only if the victor generically looks and acts like them. All others are dubbed looters of democratic mandates.
But Modi owes them nothing for his mandate. He created electoral history in spite of the derisive double dealers and has continued his triumphant progress, ignoring and disparaging them. Yogi’s ascension to the throne of Lucknow appears to be part of Modi’s grand strategy to project leaders who disrupt not just caste equations but also class equilibrium.
It is no coincidence that the vocal and vicious opposition to Yogi has come from the same set, which refuses to accept the idea of Modi as the Prime Minister. During the past few months, their tone has been less venomous because they realise he is here to stay. Confronting him head-on will not only endanger their connections with the establishment but will also choke their sources of income at home and ground their foreign junkets.
Though they abhor Modi, they adore some of his ministers, who fertilise their legitimacy and relevance in the Lutyens’ eco-system. Yogi wasn’t paradropped on the roof of the UP chief ministers’ official residence on Kalidas Marg. He was elected to the Lok Sabha five times with huge margins. To retain his chief ministership, he has to become an MLA or MLC within the next six months. But even before he has signed on his first official file or held a formal cabinet meeting, the sanguine sanyasi has been declared a champion of murderers, rapists and anti-minority marauders.
The Cassandras of calumny against the saffron savant have failed to fathom Modi’s larger agenda of a Congress-mukt Bharat. Ever since he assumed charge of national politics, his mantra is to choose young leaders to helm the party and governments in the states. Yogi is currently the country’s second youngest Chief Minister. During his farewell speech in Parliament last week, he had caustically observed that he defeated Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi because he fell between them in terms of age by an year—Akhilesh, younger and Rahul, older.
Modi had anticipated that any poll battle in Uttar Pradesh, which significantly has 80 Lok Sabha seats, will be fought against a young Akhilesh who represents OBCs and Muslims. In the end, the mantle of power fell on Yogi because of his youth, uncompromising Hindutva ideology and aggressive caste stance. The BJP doesn’t see a conflict between his public posture and Modi’s development agenda.
In the past three years, Modi, who hasn’t diluted his nationalist persona a whit, is still seen as a Prime Minister who knows his economics, sociology and politics well. To his core constituency of hardcore Hindus, he has added a large chunk of young aspirational India. Yogi is expected to be a mirror image of Modi and an extension of Modi Sarkar. In fact, Modi’s return to power with a clear majority in 2019 is tenuously linked to retaining the 73 seats, which the BJP won in 2014. Any loss in its tally could affect the balance in other cow-belt states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra where the party is in possession of maximum seats.
Before choosing Yogi, Modi has defied and demolished caste and community calculations by picking leaders who have been ignored by the BJP’s cautious caucus. The youngest-ever Brahmin CM Devendra Fadnavis was made the Chief Minister in Maratha-dominated Maharashtra. A Punjabi, Manohar Lal Khattar, was elevated to the top chair in Jat-controlled Haryana. Vijay Rupani, a Jain, was appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat, which was till now ruled by a Patel or a backward caste leader.
Modi’s emphasis is on Maximum Governance through Minimum Age. At the moment, the BJP is in direct control of 13 states and is in power in two with the help of allies. The Congress has six states under its belt. The remaining 10, including a Union Territory, are controlled by non-BJP and non-Congress parties.
BJP chief ministers have the advantage of youth over their opponents. Of its 13 CMs, five are aged between 50 and 60 and three are under 50—the youngest being 37-year-old Pema Khandu of Arunachal Pradesh. The average age of BJP Chief Ministers is the lowest in the country at 54 compared to 70 of the Congress and 64 of the non-BJP and non-Congress CMs. In the ranks of Modi fighters, three Congress Chief Ministers—Raja Virbhadra Singh (82), Captain Amarinder Singh (75) and Pu Lalthanhawla (74)—are the oldest, while Akhilesh and Arvind Kejriwal are the youngest.
The Prime Minister is fully aware that he can win a second term only if the original qualities of Brand Modi remain unalloyed. With barely two years left for the General Elections, he is deploying only commanders and soldiers who are both young and aligned with his style of politics and social engineering. Modi can see the fatigue and failure in the eyes of his opponents. He continues to pitch himself as the leader who deals not just in hope but in aspirations, too. Yogi Adityanath’s investiture is the beginning of a mammoth dealership network being established to expand Narendra Modi’s political net worth.