NEW DELHI — It is often said that if Uttar Pradesh were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest democracy. While the results of the recently concluded assembly elections garnered interest in international media, the choice of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of India’s most populous state drew sharp reactions.
Describing Adityanath as a ‘firebrand Hindu leader’, most analyses focussed on the UP chief minister-elect’s controversial anti-Muslim rhetoric, his support of Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ and what signals his appointment sends out. Here is what international publications had to say:
In a piece for the BBC, the organisation’s South Asia analyst, Anbarasan Ethirajan, writes, “ Liberals in India are asking: “Why him?” but the Hindu nationalists retort by saying: “Why not?”
“But Mr Adityanath is widely regarded as a polarising figure because of his well-publicised anti-Muslim comments.
The BJP leaders probably believe that their election formula of consolidating the votes of the Hindu majority will help them to sail through the next general elections.
It’s a double-edged strategy: it may succeed or could galvanise the disparate opposition parties to come together. The rise of Hindu nationalists has already triggered concerns among India’s religious minorities, and the choice of Mr Adityanath is likely to intensify them.”
The New York Times
The NYT’s Ellen Barry called Adityanath’s appointment “a turning point” for the Modi government. “The choice of Yogi Adityanath — who has been repeatedly accused of stirring anti-Muslim sentiments — to lead Uttar Pradesh, came as a shock to many political observers here, who have become accustomed to the carefully moderated public positions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in line with his projected image as a pro-development leader and global statesman,” says the piece.
The story quotes journalist Shekhar Gupta, who says that with the appointment, Modi is unveiling a vision of benign majoritarianism. “That means it’s a Hindu country, that’s the fact, and we’ll be nice to you if you behave yourself,” Gupta is quoted as saying.
The Washington Post
“For state leader, Modi taps firebrand politician who once advocated killing Muslims,” says the Washington Post headline.
Describing Adityanath, the piece says, “In incendiary speeches across the sprawling and impoverished Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, he has long advocated for Hindu ideals and even exhorted his followers to kill Muslims.
On Saturday, in a surprise move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party chose him to lead Uttar Pradesh, which analysts see as a clear signal that Modi is building on his party’s recent win in the state’s elections and moving to consolidate his Hindu base in a run-up to the 2019 general election.”
Al Jazeera carried a story on Adityanath’s appointment, saying it was unclear if the move could win BJP the 2019 election or backfire. “Adityanath has often fanned flames over religious conversions, inter-religion marriages, and has reportedly been arrested and charged with several crimes in the past including rioting, attempt to murder and trespassing on burial places.”
The piece goes on to say: “The rise of the Hindu priest-turned-politician in Uttar Pradesh, a state prone to sectarian strife, surprised many after Modi made his development agenda the focus of his campaign in the region, which is traditionally fractured along caste and religious lines.”