'In politics, not everything is spoken and there are a lot of messaging done very discreetly.'
Despite the poor COVID-19 management during the second wave, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Mohan Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath has not been eased out unlike his counterparts in Karnataka, Gujarat and Uttarakhand.
So, what is so special about Bisht?
"Yogi Adityanath is the only one who is a mass leader. He has his own popularity and has his own political base and capability," Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of The RSS: Icons of the Indian Right and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com in the fourth part of a multi-part interview.
- Part 1: 'Modi understands why he is faltering'
- Part 2:'Modi has gone back to the template of caste'
- Part 3: 'Modi realises his position is shaky at the moment'
Does Narendra Modi have any problems with Yogi Adityanath?
You have to understand that when Modi became prime minister in 2014, he decided to replicate the post-Nehruvian politics of central leadership over state leadership.
In this, the Centre was dominant and controlling the states with remote control by having faceless chief ministers who were never in a position to challenge the central leadership.
This was done essentially by Indira Gandhi to be followed by Rajiv Gandhi.
That old system of federal autonomy of the Congress disappeared.
In the BJP, during the Vajpayee-Advani era, they had very strong state BJP leaders. And both Vajpayee and Advani encouraged state leaders to become national players.
Modi became a national leader as Advani and Vajpayee gave him the elbow room and so too other state leaders like Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh and Yediyurappa who was a giant leader.
There was a kind of a federal system within the BJP, which was altered after 2014 when Modi became the prime minister.
Now this new system was running fairly properly except in Uttar Pradesh.
In 2017, when the BJP won the elections in Uttar Pradesh, Adityanath was nowhere in the race for the chief minister's post.
It was almost pre-decided that they will make Manoj Sinha as the BJP UP CM as he was chosen by Modi personally. He was supposed to govern the state in collaboration with the PMO.
Suddenly, Yogi Adityanath became CM of UP primarily because at that time the RSS pitched for his name and were able to swing the CM's post in Yogi's favour.
Thereafter, Yogi has not been subservient to the central leadership and worked with greater autonomy when compared to other BJP chief ministers.
He has not actually openly challenged Modi's leadership and in fact has spoken very glowingly of Modi, but in politics not everything is spoken and there are a lot of messaging done very discreetly.
Last November, when Modi had a meeting with chief ministers about the Covid situation, on that very day Yogi Adityanath announced the love jihad law.
He stole the thunder as far as media coverage was concerned.
This was a strict no-no within the BJP.
It is (an unwritten rule) that the day when Modi announces or does something big, other leaders are supposed to be low profile so that the entire publicity is hogged by Modi.
There were other such occasions too. It has not assumed alarming proportions, but definitely there is an indication.
Yogi Adityanath has stated and made it clear that in state elections the state leadership should be decided prior to the elections.
He also took out an advertisement in the Indian Express, which became controversial over the Kolkata flyover, but the fact is that he put out that advertisement without Modi's picture.
Yogi was projecting through that advertisement that he is the only leader who is doing all the development work in Uttar Pradesh.
This is completely in contrast to what was being done in the past even by Yogi.
There is definitely something brewing at this stage, but I don't know what it is.
I don't know whether there is rebellion or discontent at this moment. But there is an indication that something is going on.
Are the BJP's sacked chief ministers not bold enough to ask Modi why he is not sacking Yogi, but targeting them?
They are not bold enough and nobody is there to ask these questions.
And it is for us to ask this question as to why the BJP's weaker chief ministers have been replaced while Yogi with a similar track record of Covid mishandling not been replaced.
Why is there a different yardstick when the BJP's central leadership wants to rein in leaders of Karnataka and Gujarat compared to Uttar Pradesh?
Modi made former bureaucrat A K Sharma an MLC in UP. There were reports that Modi wanted to make him deputy chief minister.
A K Sharma was supposed to become deputy CM, but he did not become that.
He just became vice-president of the Uttar Pradesh BJP.
He is one of the vice-presidents of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh as there are more than one in this post.
Everyone knows what the position of vice-presidents in the BJP is. It is mainly an ornamental post.
The real power is with the state president and general secretary and that too depends on what grades he is in and what charge they are given.
What surprises me most is that Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar kept quiet when they were sacked as Union ministers.
They kept quiet because they are not mass leaders.
Yogi Adityanath is the only one who is a mass leader.
He has his own popularity and has his own political base and capability.
- Part 5: 'Eventually, Modi will retire'