It was a lazy Saturday afternoon. 18th of March 2017. The new cabinet of Uttar Pradesh would be sworn in the next day, following the BJP’s thumping election victory. Political observers waited for the party to announce that India’s largest state would be led by none other thanManoj Sinha, one of prime minister Modi’s most capable lieutenants who maintained a low profile. It was an open secret, or so we thought. The consensus was that Sinha was a good choice. People had little to complain about, and not much to celebrate about either. Little did we know what the next few hours had in store. Things would never be the same for us, or for our great nation.
Many of us believed that a day would come when the cornerstones of our great civilization would once again emerge at the forefront of our polity. With prime minister Modi, there were signs already. From choosing Varanasi as his constituency to quoting the likes of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo in his speeches, from taking Yoga to the world to visiting temples wherever he travelled, we witnessed a genuine effort to break out of imported and debased ideas that hold India to ransom. Some of the prime minister’s decisions indicated that he didn’t lack guts either. And when both these tendencies, the assertion of Indic values and the penchant for bold decisions, came together that day to place a monk on the chief minister’s chair, we were flummoxed. Could it really be? We had always believed this day would come, but perhaps not in 2017. We didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
It took us a while to fall back to reality. Yes, it was finally here. Yes, it was happening. Finally, from a civilizational perspective, there was hope. We had reached the end of the tunnel, we could see light. Many friends told me that’s the day they knew India would be salvaged. I even met a former NRI who decided to return to India on that day, and he did eventually. The following day, the oath of office was administered.
The young, smiling, saffron-clad man, barely one meter sixty centimeters tall, standing between two of the most powerful men in India and waving to the crowds, is an image that will be etched in the country’s memory forever. The prime minister and Amit Shah towered over Yogi in height and stature that day, and still do. But his presence was as overwhelming, and it continues to be, even figuratively.
Yogi Adityanath’s rise to Uttar Pradesh’s top job had several political implications the day it happened. Today, a year down the line, the political implications are different. One year ago, the first takeaway came from the manner his elevation was conducted- if you claimed you knew what the Modi-Shah duo’s next move would be, you were lying. The second takeaway was that the version of political correctness carefully crafted in television studios and in Lutyens was officially relegated to the trash. The third takeaway was that the Modi-Shah duo had zero illusions about reality, they understood exactly what the people wanted. And the fourth takeaway back then was that Yogi could potentially be the next big thing in Indian politics.
One year down the line, Yogi is the next big thing in Indian politics. No other politician, apart from prime minister Modi himself in 2014, has generated the level of hope and excitement among the average Indian as Yogi has. The saffron-clad chief minister has managed to be in the news almost every day since he took over, and it has almost always been good news. Whether it is the crackdown on various mafias, the crackdown on the cheating racket, the economic reforms, big-ticket infrastructure projects, relief to the agrarian class, the war against encephalitis, the drive to rid Uttar Pradesh of potholes or introducing modern education among certain medieval people, Yogi’s government has left no stone unturned to turn around a state which successive governments had, arguably, driven to a point of no redemption.
But these aren’t the reasons why Yogi is the next big thing. Many believe Yogi’s X factor, something other diligent chief ministers do not possess, is the fact that he dons saffron robes. Yogi’s X factor really, is that he has done justice to the saffron robes he dons. His style has been an embodiment of fearlessness, a fearlessness stemming from immense clarity, self-assuredness, and a sense of purpose. With age on his side, no right-thinking individual would go about making an enemy of every miscreant in the state. Knowing fully-well what certain communities are capable of, nobody in their right minds would clamp down on their notorious activities. India has been independent for seven decades now, and yet in the last four-hundred years, only one man took it upon himself to celebrate Deepawali the way we used to in Ayodhya. In an era where chief ministers line up to don the skull cap or cozy up to evangelical elements, only one leader states openly that he won’t a celebrate a festival brought to India by an invading cult. Yogi Adityanath is fulfilling his duty towards his subjects, honoring the gods, and retrieving the sanctity of our sacred land. Yogi is the next big thing because if ever the concept of Dharma was applicable in this day and age, he is upholding it. Unabashedly.
The hope and excitement he has generated across the country is on full-display when he addresses public meetings outside his state. Whether it is Gujarat, Bihar, Karnataka or the Northeast, he has become the party’s second biggest crowd puller across the country. As Yogi completes one year in office, he is already being spoken of as a potential successor to prime minister Modi, with no other competitor in sight. He has become the party’s trump card in a certain sense, a message that the BJP doesn’t stand for material development only but something deeper than that as well. It is no wonder then that Yogi has received both a free hand as well as complete support from the prime minister’s side, something the prime minister perhaps never received from his seniors back in the day. One year down the line from March 19th 2017, if we can be sure one thing, it is that the Yogi model has proven itself already and deserves to go places.
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