Date: 4/21/2004


‘I want Muslim votes, but wash them in Gangajal’

................Apr 20, 2004

Gorakhpur, April 20: Clocks are for mere mortals. It is well past 10 pm, the Election Commission deadline for public meetings that even L K Advani had to abide. The crowd is still waiting for its star speaker.

Meanwhile, lesser lights keep the audience entertained. Bazaar gossip is peddled as fact. ‘‘Sonia Gandhi is not a permanent citizen of India,’’ claims one speaker. ‘‘She renews her citizenship every five years.’’

There is more: about how Aligarh Muslim University produces terrorists and how Akbar humiliated our sisters.

But don’t worry. The saviour is here. Yogi Adityanath, the 32-year-old BJP MP seeking re-election from Gorakhpur, arrives in a Tata Safari trailed by a convoy of 25 vehicles. Chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ rise in the air.

Adityanath does not disappoint his audience. ‘‘Vote me in only for Hindutva, not for development,’’ he says bluntly.

It is obvious that Adityanath is not bound by his party’s official agenda. In fact, for the past two years, he has been carving out an independent Hindutva fiefdom outside the audit of the Sangh Parivar, almost from the time he took over as deputy head of the Gorakhnath temple, next only to Mahant Avaidyanath in the pecking order. His saffron credentials are unmatched and his supporters brazen.

‘‘Purvanchal mein rehana hai to Yogi, Yogi kehana hoga (Swear by Yogi if you want to live in Purvanchal),’’ they shout. This is no hyperbole. As he meets The Indian Express in his office the following morning, with pearl earrings and two rudrakshas clinging to his well-toned body, Adityanath lays his cards on the table. What role does he see for the Muslims, we ask him. ‘‘We cannnot chase them away,’’ he replies. ‘‘They can live here but they must join the mainstream.’’ He does not elaborate.

Make no mistake. Adityanath has muscle to back his implied threat. His two-year-old ‘‘cultural organisation’’, Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), has spread through all eight constituencies in the region. It has organised some two dozen Hindu Sangams at block levels and its support base is widenening as its insists on having the last word on anything related to ‘‘Hindu awakening’’.

When a Muslim paan-chewer spat at a Hindu, the HYV was there to flex its muscle. When a Hindu girl was allegedly raped by a Muslim and when Muslim farmers beat up a bull running wild in their farms, it stepped in to uphold Hindu pride. Soon after the Godhra killings, Adityanath told a huge gathering: ‘‘I have spoken to Modiji and asked him to take 10 wickets for every one wicket from our side. Mark your houses with saffron flags and count the Muslims in your neighbourhood. We may need to do something soon.’’

As elections approach, he is adopting a more conciliatory tone. ‘‘I want Muslim votes too,’’ he says. ‘‘But wash them in Gangajal first.’’

As he shuttles between his election office and Mahant Avaidyanath’s room, his visitors are served a mix of curd, salt and sugar. Then he meets questions head on. Why does he talk Hindutva when his party is talking development? ‘‘You are wrong. Even the NDA has adopted HIndutva.’’

Is he independent of the RSS? ‘‘We get their support.’’

Official support for him was obvious when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy PM L K Advani recently made unscheduled visits to the temple over which Adityanath lords. Remember the name. You may hear more about Yogi Adityanath in the years to come.