In the modern Indian political spectrum, two fundamentally opposed worldviews dominate the Indian polity since independence – Nehru’s secularism and Hindutva (or Hindu nationalism). These fundamentally opposed worldviews are the primary drivers of modern Indian political history. During modern India’s more than seventy years of existence, these political thought traditions clashed intermittently. However, for most of its contemporary political history, India has been in the dominance of the secular model of politics and associated categories of the social construction of citizenship, patriotism, historical continuance, and accessibility to economic opportunities and social wellbeing.
Since the 1990s, the latter political thought tradition is increasingly gaining ground in the Indian political and administrative system. One of its repeatedly-asserted and rhetorically valuable points of governance is the tenure of Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujrat. It was a position he held onto for 12 years consecutively, an essential highlight in India’s highly-contested political environment. Modi’s Gujrat tenure was hailed as exemplary for the economic growth and development awaiting India if he is elected as PM in 2014, which India did respond to the affirmative.
However, as Modi is in his second tenure as Prime Minister of India, another markedly distinct period of Hindu nationalist governance is taking root. This time, it is in one of India’s most populous regions – Uttar Pradesh (UP) – with a significant Muslim population. This period of Hindu nationalist governance is markedly distinct in that it is ruled by an ardent hardliner Hindu nationalist Ajay Mohan Bisht (prominently known as Yogi Adiyanath due to his overexpression of Hindu religiosity).
It is indeed a historical fact that Modi’s tenure as CM of Gujrat is tainted with borderline genocide of Muslims in the communal riots, which followed the demolition of the Babri Mosques by right-wing Hindu nationalists in Ayodhya. As the murder spree of Muslims by the Hindu nationalists, the stain of absolution of responsibility was rampaging across the Gujrat state. It was so enormous and apparent that some countries, including the US, forbid his entry to their territories. He was held as a primary actor responsible for the communal riots, which had a devastating toll on India’s communal relations.
However, besides this lingering traumatic experience of communal riots at the start, Modi’s tenure as CM reflects a turn toward the state’s economic development and a radical image reshaping of Modi as an economic wizard than a Hindu bigot. Even his discourse subtly reflect hate and prejudice. The skillful use of language translated his image remaking as an economic reformer working for all India’s betterment, rhetoric propagated in the 2014 elections. Furthermore, by manifesting his capacity for state-sponsored violence to subdue minorities in his state, he had attracted Indian capitalists’ attention. He is doing it, as the same power could be applied to suppress workers, giving Indian capitalists a free-reign to pursue neoliberal economic policies.
Contrasting Modi’s attentiveness to his image and policies, Yogi Adityanath is a bipolar opposite of Narendra Modi in his mind and conduct. According to some reports, he is also being considered as a successor to Modi. Moreover, due to this prospect, he was given the chief ministerial-ship of UP to advance Hindu nationalism’s core ideological agenda in the largest province by population in India.
Unlike the subtleties of Modi regarding discourse and policy, and a deep concern for his image at home and abroad, Adityanath fervently believes in the cause of Hindu nationalism. According to the need, he does not share the cunning pragmatism of Modi to shape discourse, appearance, and policy. He certainly doesn’t concern himself with preserving democratic values with a modicum expression of adherence to them.
Starting his career as a feverishly young man believing in Hindu power’s triumph in the multi-cultural and secular India, Yogi, in contrast to Modi, was intricately involved in the grassroots violence against minorities religious or castes. One of the points which makes him distinct from Modi is that he is so unabashedly dedicated to the idea of a Hindu Rashtra that he doesn’t even disguise his intention in subtle language or his policy in bureaucratic garb. In his state, besides the Muslims, the castes below Thakurs, to which he belongs, are living in an atmosphere of great terror and fear.
The primary distinction between Yogi’s India and Modi’s India is that the latter took off in a social and political context, which was very different from the one Yogi finds himself in. During Modi’s tenure, Hindu nationalism was still a nascent political force, making its ground gradually in a still Congress-dominated political environment. Yet, after a complete term and a year into the second term, Hindu nationalism ideas are more in a dominant position in Indian society.
Since becoming CM of UP, Yogi had been exasperated over the former’s former appeasement of religious and caste minorities. He had enacted numerous programs that collectively can be termed as programs of advocating vigilantism in the state. From his support to love jihad, erasure of Muslim history in UP, and his support to the lynching of the people in the name of preservation of Cows and general atmosphere of fear, Yogi is setting a stage toward eventual re-establishing of India as a Hindu Rashtra.
It must be noted that after Ayodhya, in the Hindu nationalist project of reclaiming lands of alleged religious value on which currently Mosques are built, the two Mosques are built-in Kashi and Mathura, both within the territory of UP. Moreover, this time around, there may not be a semblance of condemnation as it was in the past when Hindu nationalist fanatics demolished Babri Mosque.
Modi was not able to enact policies to shift his political agenda entirely in favor of Hindu nationalism. Still, in the present times of identity politics and public-receptivity toward radical ideas conveying a sense of superiority and identity to a particular religious or ethnic nation, Yogi’s India is a template for India’s future.