Yogi Adityanath, the Chief minister of Uttar Pradesh is a “Hindutva” icon but, for his next big move in his second term, he is apparently going to focus much more on pushing strong governance as an invite for large corporate shops.
So far, his machismo and “bulldozer” tough guy approach have held him in good stead within the state. And the saffron-wearing monk is incredibly proud of his rep as the “hard man” of law and order, but wants a brand extension that will seem more appealing to investors for UP, where jobs are desperately needed.
Take the case of the LuLu Mall in Lucknow, inaugurated by him on July 10. The mall is owned by an Abu Dhabi group and turned into the epicentre of controversy when, in July, a group of about eight men were seen offering namaz there. Hindu groups then wanted to perform a puja at the same spot. Much to the surprise of Hindutva hard-liners, Yogi Adityanath cracked down hard saying “Some are making unnecessary remarks, staging demonstrations to obstruct movement of people. Miscreants attempting to create nuisance should be dealt with strictly,” he asserted, ordering local officials to ensure peace. Unsurprisingly, no other disturbance was reported.
Sources in the Yogi camp see a conspiracy by rivals to tarnish Yogi Adityanath’s image and drive away investment from UP. “Some leaders sitting in Lucknow and Delhi and are not able to digest Maharaja’s popularity and want to create bawal (drama) to attack him. He is fully aware of these leaders and will not stop his investment drive. Positions do not matter to him (on Yogi being kept out of the BJP parliamentary board),” said a senior Yogi aide from the Gorakhnath Mutt.
Team Yogi wants to next-level Noida Film City, where most news channels now have large, swanky headquarters. The idea is to turn it into a production hub as a Bollywood magnet.
Under consideration are tax incentives and subsidised land for state-of-the art studios and other facilities for film shoots. “From sound recording to shoots, we want to have the best facilities to offer the Hindi film industry and film producers from the South. Yogi-ji the only Chief Minister who is not superstitions about visiting Noida (there’s a long-running superstition that a Chief Minister who visits Noida loses the job pretty quickly). Yogi-ji asks every star who calls on him to shoot in Noida,” said a senior official.
Yogi Adityanath wants all the glamour of Bollywood to spread some stardust in Noida.
From film stars to honeymooners. The draft tourism policy for the next ten years which will be implemented from next year wants big-bang promotions for the Taj Mahal to UP’s culinary excellence with food tours. Hot air balloons, religious circuit tourism including lavish introductions to the new Ayodhya temple and upgrading facilities for the Kumbh Mela are in the works.
All these plans intend to add up to a kinder, gentler Brand Yogi, a 180-degree turn from the curiously-named “Romeo Squads” and “Love Jihad” evangelism that benchmarked his earlier reputation. Even Yogi’s private vigilante army – the Hindu Yuva Vahini – which definitely had an image problem of being a squad of angry young men out to attack minorities and use Yogi’s name for their “enterprises” (euphemism for arm-twisting), is undergoing a makeover to match the new image of their “Maharaja”. From “UP mein rehna hoga toh Yogi Yogi kehna hoga (if you want to live in UP, chant Yogi’s name)” and driving with number plates which just said “Yogi”, the outfit today claims to do relief work.
Effectively, Yogi Adityanath is following in the footsteps of another BJP Chief Minister who had his eye on the PM’s office.
(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.