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UP has another contender for power. Can Yogi strike a balance?

UP has another contender for power. Can Yogi strike a balance?

By Advait Moharir

The Hindu political right constitutes an important part of Indian politics. Ever since the 1990s, its influence has been on the rise. Be it through the induction of RSS members into BJP cabinets, the rewriting of history textbooks, or an aggressive push towards a specific narrative of nationalism—right-wing politics continues to gain prominence. With Yogi Adityanath becoming Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister, it is being said that certain fringe elements might now step into the mainstream. One such example is the overclouding emergence of the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV).

The Vahini: Dawn of a fundamentalist agenda

Founded by Adityanath in 2000, the Hindu Yuva Vahini is an organisation that runs parallel to the RSS. Pledging allegiance to the Gorakhpur Math, it seeks to support consensual conversion to Hinduism, a complete ban on cow slaughter and a total re-establishment of the Hindu faith and culture. The agenda concerning cow slaughter has been taken up very aggressively by the Vahini ever since Adityanath ordered a clampdown. This has led to a rise in its visibility, with special attention being paid to its violent ways of enforcing law and order. The HYV  has been condemned multiple times, not only by the opposition but also by the BJP and RSS that recently expressed concern over the freedom that the HYV has.

An unprecedented expansion

The Indian Right is often viewed as a homogenous entity. However, there are subtle power dynamics in place among the BJP (which is more right of the centre), the RSS and all the multiple fringe organisations like the HYV. They have distinct and clear-cut spheres of operation. While the RSS tends to be much more moderate considering the existence of a Muslim and Christian wing under it, the Vahini is an explicitly Hindu fundamentalist organisation.

Usually, there is a clear understanding among them, and an overlap of interests allows them to have a common stand on an issue. However, the recent conflict is unique. The HYV has grown in strength over the years, as it did throughout Yogi’s tenure as a member of parliament, and has received a major boost after his appointment as UP’s Chief Minister. It has expanded at an unprecedented rate ever since and its influence has also been on a hike with the deployment of Romeo squads and their extensive media coverage. The fact that the Vahini is outside the Sangh Parivar makes it difficult for the Sangh to control it. The Vahini’s unabashed espousal of Hindutva presents it as an alternate organisation for the Hindu right to rally with, in parts of UP at least.

A much-needed act of balance

Adityanath currently faces a strange conundrum. It is clear that the concerns raised by the RSS, even though they are driven by self-interest, are valid. The HYV has gone overboard and has a certain proclivity to take the law into its own hands. For instance, under the garb of Anti-Romeo squads, members of the Vahini managed to barge into a house and drag a consenting couple out for being in a “compromising position”. Vahini members were also involved in a hit-and-run case in Noida and also interrupted an ongoing Church prayer meeting. If this state of affairs continues, the Vahini may end up tarnishing the government’s image, and that of Adityanath, who still serves as its founder. In light of this, it is clear that Adityanath cannot be explicit. He owes the Vahini their unwavering support at all times. However, he very recently praised the RSS by calling them “true nationalists.” These contradictory statements might send mixed messages. 

Thus, a balancing act is the need of the hour for Adityanath. Only time will tell whether he emerges successful at asking the Vahini, his brainchild, to tone down the violence. This has to materialise without him losing out on the HYV’s support and without tempting the fury of either the BJP or the RSS.

Featured image credits: Flickr

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