Published On : Mon, Mar 20th, 2017

This Yogi needs a different avatar to impress markets, help Modi’s image

New Delhi: This was a campaign which started not immediately before the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) but is at least 12 to 15-months old and in some areas had even begun soon after the BJP’s superb performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

There was this graffiti on the walls across UP (not the sleek and glitzy banners but plain, simple words painted on walls) – “Desh mein Modi, Pradesh mein Yogi” which translates into “Modi for the Centre and Yogi Adityanath for the state”.

Not just that, there were reports that in many areas where Yogi Adityanath wields considerable influence, some of his supporters were very unhappy with the fact that their leader was not projected as the Chief Minister during the UP elections and they had their own candidates contesting this election.

Hence, it comes as a really big surprise that despite being dark horse till very late, Yogi Adityanath was able to beat other strong contenders and emerged as the chosen one for the Chief Minister’s post in the politically important Uttar Pradesh. It would not be exaggeration that UP is critical for the BJP and Modi’s chances in 2019. Unless they do nearly as well as they did in 2014 and 2017, things might get difficult for them.

After the BJP’s stupendous victory in the 2014 general elections, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party president Amit Shah have made interesting choices while selecting chief ministers in many states such as Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat and Uttarakhand, but they have generally been conscious of the CM candidates’ public image.

Hence, choosing someone whose image is of a hardliner will seem like an inconsistency.

The appointment of Yogi Adityanath in UP is surprising for three reasons, a) in all other states, the general impression was that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other ideological forces have not been able to dictate terms to Modi and Shah but the case of UP looks different, b) it may not have been deliberate, but the general view was that the BJP central leadership didn’t choose a mass leader in other states, which also is not the case with Yogi Adityanath, who has huge following, c) the BJP was more interested in choosing a non-controversial figure in other states so that the CMs are not carrying a huge political and image-linked baggage and this too is not the case with UP.

Though it would be unfair to have a negative view on his administrative capabilities because the data points available are not sufficient at this stage, Yogi Adityanath’s appointment is certainly a negative surprise for the markets. The current image of new UP Chief Minister is unlikely to inspire huge confidence among investors, especially among foreign institutions because at this moment, Yogi Adityanath would not seem like someone who can build consensus and can take everyone along.

At best, Yogi belonged to the category of “fringe elements” in the BJP, but his taking centre stage is likely to disappoint the markets that rejoiced after Modi’s landslide victory in the recently-concluded assembly elections, especially the unprecedented mandate that the party got in UP.

Another fact the market will be worried about is that it took very long for the BJP to take this decision and there are two deputy chief ministers, who have also been appointed. This might be seen as an indication that the not-so-progressive forces are still powerful in the BJP and even if the Prime Minister wants to ignore them completely, he would not be able to do that because of internal and external political compulsions.

And that is something investors won’t be happy about. It is neither fair nor wise to write someone off without giving a proper opportunity, but unfortunately that looks like a case with how markets may react to the appointment of Yogi Adityanath. Even if he is ultimately able to prove himself, there is no doubt that he would need to work doubly hard and it would also require an altogether different avatar of Yogi.

—As Published in ET