The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 21 , 2017

BJP rushes to shake off Yogi caste tag

New Delhi, March 20: The BJP today tried to pitch Hindutva mascot and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath as a "caste-neutral" leader, seeking to deflect the Opposition's charges that an upper caste Thakur had been thrust on the state.

The projection came as several theories swirled in the power corridors about the reasons behind Yogi's surprise elevation. "It is unfair to attribute a caste to him. He is a yogi. People of all communities are celebrating his becoming CM," Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu said, hours after Mayawati's allegations that a Thakur had been crowned chief minister to further the RSS's Hindutva agenda.

"The BJP gathered the votes of backward castes by advancing Keshav Prasad Maurya but after winning, they have crowned a Thakur," the BSP chief said outside Parliament.

The BJP's stunning victory was powered by non-Yadav backward classes and the party fears the Opposition's move to pick on Yogi's caste could send out a wrong signal.

The BJP has stressed that Yogi is a sanyasi (ascetic) and cannot be put in any caste bracket. "His life is full of service. He has declared that he will follow the PM's mantra 'sabka saath, sabka vikas (support of all, development for all)'. He is a holy man. Therefore, a caste doesn't stick to him. He is a man without a family and is above personal corruption", Naidu wrote in a Facebook post.

Naidu, the central party observer at the meeting of the newly elected MLAs where Yogi was named the leader, claimed the choice was unanimous and said the new chief minister would prove critics wrong. "Yogi Adityanath will lead UP on the path of development. He will prove sceptics wrong once and for all," Naidu said.

Several theories swirled around the elevation of Yogi. Most party leaders confirmed that Yogi jumped into the race at the last moment and stole the show.

One such talk is that Yogi was the choice of BJP chief Amit Shah. Party leaders believed Modi had chosen Union minister Manoj Sinha but Shah prevailed upon the Prime Minister to change his mind.

Shah, according to this talk, argued that the Yogi was the most popular state BJP leader and would prove a good administrator. Other leaders cited the case of Gujarat, where frontrunner Nitin Patel was changed at the last moment last year and Shah's choice Vijay Rupani was picked.

The second buzz is that the RSS pushed Yogi's name on the understanding that he was best suited to implement its Hindutva agenda in India's most populous state. The RSS was sceptical about Sinha's ability to push its plans. The RSS never had very good relations with Yogi but still favoured him, believing he was the most preferable candidate given his commitment to the Hindutva cause.

Yet another whisper was that Yogi forced the hands of Modi and Shah after he learnt that Sinha could emerge the leader. Both Sinha and Yogi hail from the state's east. Yogi believes he is the region's tallest BJP leader.

Yogi, according to the grapevine, threatened to revolt and warned the Hindu Yuva Vahini, Yogi's private army of cadres accused in several cases of communal violence, would start protests if Sinha was chosen.

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