Illustration | Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

With the inauguration of Rs 970-crore Central Vista in the middle of a pandemic, and a struggling economy that recorded a -23.9 per cent GDP growth in the first quarter of FY21, India has officially entered the twilight zone — where lines are blurring between reality and a nightmarish lucid dream. And within this blurring, India’s power circle is seeing a new development, which was spoken of in 2017. Albeit not enough. Twin power centers are legendary in politics. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani were the famous ‘jugalbandi’ once, with the latter always being the PM-in-waiting. Now, Narendra Modi-Amit Shah are the reigning duopoly. But soon, another may emerge. Indian politics may be getting ready for a new powerplay — Modi vs Yogi.

Last week, images were flooded on social media of India’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) sitting with the Prime Monk of India — Yogi Adityanath. CDS General Bipin Rawat chose to be the chief guest at the annual day of Maharana Pratap Inter College in Gorakhpur, instead of being with his colleagues for the Navy Day celebrations, which he himself has attended nine times before as the Chief of Army Staff. General Rawat chose to attend the function of an institution run by a quasi-political and religious organisation — the Gorakhnath Math — over the Navy Day. As a matter of principle, such a move will be a big ‘no no’ for anyone from the forces. But we are in the twilight zone, remember?

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General Rawat’s presence at the Gorakhpur event can be passed off as completely harmless. But let’s juxtapose it with how our Prime Minister goes out of his way to make the armed forces his priority.

Modi is aware that Hindutva and the armed forces are his lucky talismans. The 2019 Lok Sabha election was won by Narendra Modi primarily because he rode on the wave of ‘nationalism’ created by the Indian Air Force after the Balakot airstrikes in Pakistan. Which is why, on 7 December, just three days after the conspicuous absence of CDS Rawat from the Navy Day event, our mask-less Prime Minister promptly turned up on the Armed Forces Flag Day to honour our soldiers. All of this still seems harmless, but only till you try connecting the dots. And the dots circle two places. Delhi and Lucknow.

Also read: Modi’s lockdown beard is here to stay. It has much to achieve, politically

The Lucknow pull

It seems as if an equally powerful political clique is developing in Uttar Pradesh where many important people flock to these days. And you wonder if a parallel power centre is running in Lucknow. The corollary to that will be — is there a parallel power centre emerging in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? Think about it, if you’re hearing the echoes of ‘Modi hai toh mumkin hai’, the cries of ‘Yogi hai toh yakeen hai’ are not far behind.

Consider this in the realm of conjecture but a Modi vs Yogi is clearly emerging in the political horizon of India.

During the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, not many people expected Yogi to be chosen as the chief minister, because neither was he used as a “star campaigner” in the state nor was he projected as the CM face. In fact, most had expected then Union Minister of State for telecom Manoj Sinha, who was also rumoured to be Modi’s first choice, to take the CM’s chair. Political commentators are also of the opinion that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was instrumental in propping Yogi against Modi to make it clear that no one was indispensable or above the organisation. Not even Modi. And that is proving to be true.

Yogi Adityanath is the only leader from the BJP who can stand on his own, without having to be under the shadow of Narendra Modi or Amit Shah. If Akshay Kumar tried to get cosy with the Prime Minister by taking his interview, he also sought Yogi’s blessings and permission to shoot in Ayodhya for his upcoming film Ram Setu. And it doesn’t stop here. If Bollywood shared a selfie with PM Modi, Yogi Adityanath is also well on his way to gather tinsel town stars by his side. It’s all an exercise to make a personality cult, much like Modi who has aced this game. Big Bollywood producers and directors like Subhash Ghai, Boney Kapoor, Rajkumar Santoshi, Sudhir Mishra, Ramesh Sippy, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Madhur Bhandarkar, Bhushan Kumar and Siddharth Roy Kapur, along with actors Arjun Rampal and Ravi Kishan, recently met Yogi in Mumbai to discuss the film city that is upcoming up Uttar Pradesh.

Also read: Yogi Adityanath’s Mughal hatred based on Jizya. But BJP has many modern versions for Muslims

Modi creating space

In his second term, PM Modi has tried to distance himself as the hardliner majoritarian leader. Instead of the tilak-donning leader, Modi is now seen feeding peacocks and parrots, wearing pastels and trying too hard to turn himself into an iconoclast who is whimsical and philosophical. Yogi, however, is the cookie-cutter Hindutva propagating icon. His presence alongside Modi during the Ram Temple bhumi pujan was telling. Besides Modi, the only two significant political entities present there were the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and the UP chief minister himself. Even Amit Shah was conspicuously absent from this historic moment that would be etched forever in the minds of a ‘devout’ Hindu — an emotive moment that would fetch many votes in decades to come.

Yogi is never staying too far behind to fill the gaping holes in his personality that may make him seem lesser than Modi.

Just like Modi, Yogi too is building the no-strings-attached version of himself. A brahmachari, the UP chief minister went as far as not to attend the funeral of his father who he in a letter called his purvashram ke janmadata or father of the ‘former world’ before Yogi had taken sanyas. Yogi carried on with his official duty of the chief minister on the day his father died as he was duty bound by his ‘Rajdharma’ and did not want to violate the Covid-19 lockdown.

Also read: Not Ram Mandir, the ‘love jihad’ laws are the foundation of Hindu Rashtra

A fan base of his own

It’s also quite alarming that some BJP members refer to Yogi Adityanath as “Maharaj ji” as can be seen in a blog posted by BJP’s former Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay who believes that Yogi has set an “impossible standard of idealism by a public leader”. In fact, he was upset that his greatness was not shown enough by the media.

Yogi Adityanath also has a fan following in the government. Ajit Doval didn’t shy away from heaping praise on him for keeping law and order in Uttar Pradesh top notch after the Ayodhya verdict of the Supreme Court. That’s another thing that it was PM Modi who had appealed for calm after the verdict.

It’s only poetic to think of Modi vs Yogi as The Fakeer vs The Yogi. 2021 to 2024 will be the interlude where these two power centres will either emerge more obviously or a peaceful middle-ground will be negotiated. What will be interesting to see is if Amit Shah will be the collateral damage in this game of thrones.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal. Views are personal.

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  1. This article is the most fanciful rubbish one can imagine …. even by the ‘standards’ of fanciful gossip-writing. Gen. Rawat’s attending the function was highly questionable, but it is far fetched to say that this is some kind of evidence of a fissure between the PM and the UP CM. And, incidentally, PM Modi won again in 2019 not “…. primarily because he rode on the wave of ‘nationalism’ created by the Indian Air Force after the Balakot airstrikes in Pakistan” but because most Indians rightly see him as personally committed to the cause of India, hard-working, clever, determined and a self-made man; unlike his ‘rival’ Mr Gandhi on all counts! Modi has taken some mis-steps but if the people of India are ready to re-elect him then thats pretty much it. Sure, one day he will step down as everyone does and the BJP will select a leader and the people of India will select a PM. CM Yogi will no doubt try, and good luck to him at the time … but he has to convince everyone first by turning UP around!

  2. Shivam and Zainab are to theprint what Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are to the Congress Party. Make of that what you will 🙂

  3. What a poor article,it would have been amusing had not the inherent wish of the author to sow some seeds of discord in the BJP been not so glaringly obvious,Both Modi and Yogi are Karmayogis a concept lost on these Durbaris and Lutyens,Khan Market Gang,both Modi whose extended family lives a middle class life and Yogi whose Sister still sells flowers to make a living are not affected by pomp or position, they’re bound to their vows of celibacy and public service which is obvious to anyone who care to see.So please Print don’t indulge such nonsense article writers, it’s in very poor taste

  4. Now that these sickulars know very well that Congress and left are nowhere in the race for 2024, they have no option but to keep churning various stories of in fighting amongst the BJP leaders. And what story can sell better than Fakir versus Yogi! What Zainab does not understand is that her article is actually a big eulogy for Yogi rather than his criticism. Yogi comes out as a man of action, hard working, focused, non corrupt etc. Zainab- please mend your ways else …!!
    For a sickular, whether it is Fakir or Yogi or collateral damage of Amitbhai, should not matter at all!!

    • Lowest in politics in our generation a hardcore bigot become CM! I don’t blame him, since there are people like you to support.

  5. It seems this Medium is Sure that in 2024 NDA is going to Win again. The only issue ñow to be decided Is who will the PM from BJP In 2024.

  6. I feel the CDS should have given priority to the Navy Day over this event.

    But on the lighter side, Ms. Sikandar, why diss on Akshay Kumar for doing his job? I for one will be honoured to interview the Prime Minister of India (be it Narendra Modi or
    Manmohan Singh or anyone before them). Especially since Modi, after a long time won an absolute majority on his own, after 1984 elections.

    I also believe every one of our 130 crore brothers and sisters would feel the same.

  7. Zainab…. I have a sincere request…. Please consider leaving the print alone and taking your expertise to the Tabloid industry

  8. hahahaha ZAINAB SIKANDER and Jihadists REgerssive Leftists and TUkdeTukdeGang and DieNASTIES, their desperation is so obvious they have graduated from inventing nonexistent tussle between Modi vs Shah to Modi vs Yogi. Both are SADHUS, not faqeer, faqeer is Islamic evangelical. Hindus only have SADHUS. Modi created the path, yogi is blazin ghe trail at faster pace. Haters use to invent fake enws that BJP lacks talented minister who can run governance, Now , the same fake new reporters have started to report a long line of talent in BJP, who are suppose to fight each other. This rather a wet dream or a wishful thinking ion behalf of haters that they wish BJP will fight mong itself liek CONgressi are fighting within themselves as he wheels are coming off and leaders are willing to quit CONgress and join BJP. Just like a good corporate, BJP too has groomed a massive pool of talent belongin to several generations of leadership, Modi as current era PM, Shah or Yogi or Gadkari as next generation and Yogi might win as RSS prefers those SADHUS with no family , then gen next is Tejasvi Surya, with Modi, Shah, Yogi, Gadkari, Fadnavis, Tejasvi Surya,, BJP had deep batting lineup of all rounders with huge star power and xfactor to rule the nation for next 40 years.

  9. does this news warrant any reaction, i dont think it matters at all, things have changed so much that whoever replaces modi ji,if ever, shall have to live under his shadow, he is yug purush

  10. Stupid article. Amit Shah did not attend Bhoomi Pooja because he was in isolation due to COVID-19 positive.

    BJP is disciplined party

  11. Hold your horses ..unlike modi yogi is an upper caste leader we will have to wait and see if he has the broad appeal needed accross the spectrum …the way Indian economy is going nowadays bhakts have a tough time ahead convincing people about the choices of their sugar daddy …

  12. Foolish lady. Day dreaming. Lal the anti Modi, anti BJP dirt oozes out every few days. Has got nothing to do with facts. Her boss also a long known dalal of congress allows all such imaginary, fictional stuff to be published. Third grade, cheap.

  13. Adityanath has nothing to gain by a public feud with Modi. Also, considering all the publicity by the BJP, it is obvious that Adityanath is being groomed by the BJP as a future candidate for PM’ship. So, it makes no sense for him to play the risky move of feuding with Modi who still has considerably large following among the voters.

  14. This article is classic Liberal. It’s really embarrassing when one realizes how little these people understand the BJP, its cadre & top leadership.
    What else can one expect from these shallow folk who project a half-wit dynastic Clown Prince as a national leader.
    Zainab it’ll be better for all concerned if you take up journalism for which you are better suited, like writing about filmi wives for Femina or Filmfare.

  15. I think the trouble here is that the author (and a large section of the commentariat) has gotten so used to having political parties run as family fiefdoms that the normal process of parties developing the future leadership and leaders appears to them as a sinister development. In this case, all I see is that the BJP is developing its next generation of leaders i.e. a succession plan. You can obviously disagree with the direction the party is taking but it is a party’s prerogative to decide where they wish to go in the future.
    On a slightly different note, I would advise the author to pay more attention to details. Nothing undermines an argument more than an incorrect fact. In this case, the absence of Mr. Shah during the Bhumi Pujan in Ayodhya, was cited as an example of the “power struggle” developing within BJP. A simple Google search would have informed the author that Mr. Shah was infected with Covid19 at the time and was presumably in isolation. This more than anything else would have explained his absence.

  16. This is called wishful thinking. It seems BJP has strong leaders and they allow them autonomy to work. Why it should bother anyone.

  17. Good article. All the BJP wallahs are howling in rage and come with personal attacks when they feel exposed ! That is a clear proof that the ZS’s observations are correct, and they have no refutation.

    It is a common situation among gangsters for rivalry to develop. Gangsters cultivate a support base. Modi has a gangster base,; it started as a Gujarati Hindu one, and became an all-India Hindu one, with RSS support. Yogi had a gangster base in Gorakhpur, and now he has grown it in UP. It is also Hindu based, He also has RSS approval as ZS points out. UP has a large population and believes itself to be the centre of the country, so Yogi will demand control. Gujarat does not have the population, but has money power. Hence, there will be a tug between the two. Hindus touch the feet of whoever is in power. Hindus in UP will see Yogi as Maharaj as ZS points out.

    Hindus will fight between themselves in the most unprincipled way – it is just a matter of time. At the current time, they are apparently united – by hate of Muslims, and nothing more. As the economy crumbles, the current Hindu delusions will become unsustainable, and the fights will start.

  18. The Print, on 2nd Oct, 2020, had an article on 10 Indian politicians who caught the covid virus. The first name in the article was that of Shri Amt Shah. It said that the Home Minister was admitted to the Medanta Hospital on 2nd Aug and was discharged on 14th August. The Bhoomi Puja of the new Ram Mandir at Ayodhya was on 5th August. Hence Shri Amit Shah could not have attended this function under any circumstances. One does not expect any pamphleteer masquerading as a journalist, like Begum Zainab Sikandar, to do such elementary research. But surely the editorial team at The Print or its redoubtable Editor In Chief Shri Shekhar Gupta, should have pointed out the gaffe and the flawed logic that followed it? Either Shri Gupta is too caught up in “Cut the Clutter” or he is is deliberating encouraging such click bait journalism to pocket subscription money. Whatever it may be, at least get the facts correct, if not the rhetoric. That the article was a joke, written over the weekend, is a minor point.

    • Plenty others said that they leave the country if Shri Narendra Modi became PM. But they did not and strangely felt offended when people helpfully sent them tickets to Pakistan.

  19. This article is a very surprising indirect admission by the anti -BJP, anti-Hindus Journalists that in future political landscape so-called liberals and dynasty and dynasty supporting politicians will be on the outer periphery of the political discourse . To show their helplessness and grief , have come out with a imaginary feud and positioning place some years from now , between the two of the current tallest politicians of BJP –Shri Modi Ji and Shri Yogi Ji.

    India has moved on miles ahead in politics that was revolving around a particular family or dynasty . But faithful journalists of the dynasty have not learnt and internalized the change . How stupid is to go on writing that in 2019 Modi ji Won due to Balakot strikes only . Please think over it why Modi has not lost any election since 2002 . It not like hitting fastly only in the last overs of one-day cricket match. Good captain knows how innings are built and he develops the same keeping in view adversary – teams strength .

    Unlike a small bunch of so-called leftists and self-declared liberals , most of the common voters of India think Modi , is some notch above current crowd of politicians in having desirable qualities . Question of Modi and Yogi binary is very much pre-mature .

  20. This is where you lost sweetheart. “Even Amit Shah was conspicuously absent from this historic moment that would be etched forever in the minds of a ‘devout’ Hindu”. Amit Shah was down with COVID and could not attend. if you did you research a bit more and not play this divide and rule… ahh… what a try….

    • The question is why the editorial team of The Print and its editor in chief, Shri Shekhar Gupta, deliberately allowed Bengum Zainab Sikandar to make this factually incorrect assertion just like they allowed her, in an earlier article, to state that in Hinduism, “Dharma” is the same as religion in Abrahamic faiths? That is the real question. What is their game?

  21. UP CM comes across as a true Karmayogi unlike other biggies in the ruling party, who seem egoistic,whimsical, politico – businessmen. Yogi’s admininistrative acumen is also much sharper than others.

  22. It seems, main target & purpose of the author is to sow seeds of wedge among BJP TOP as well as cadre. He may not succeed excepting cause a minor ripple.

  23. No matter how much Leftists & Jihadists try to create rift between top BJP leaders, it won’t happen, these people are not power hungry or currupt like congress, they are in politics due to an ideology, as long as RSS is there , there won’t be any success for Jihadists & leftists plans.

  24. You guys are so desperate. First, it was spins about how a Modi vs Shah struggle was in the cards. Now, you have started fantasizing about Modi vs Yogi. You don’t have any qualms about dragging CDS and NSA into it either, maligning them by making wild insinuations on how they have started courting Yogi! Another lame insinuation is about the presence of Yogi in the Ayodhya temple ceremony. He is the CM of UP and it’s obvious that he will accompany the PM for such an important function in his own state! No idea how this kind of yellow journalism can get past editorial review. Shekhar Gupta keeps on asking for a paid subscription to fund ‘good journalism’. People will pay money for good, objective journalism. But, not yellow journalism like this article is all about.

  25. It will not be Yogi vs Modi and certainly not in 2024. It will be Modi BJP vs Yogi BJP sometime after 2026 – something like Advani BJP vs Modi BJP in 2013. Yogi is not just capable of carrying UP – he can carry the entire Hindi belt. Remember in 2026 there will be realignment of Lok Sabha seats and UP will gain the most seats in the new Lok Sabha. The losers will be
    1. Amit Shah (and those considered to be Amit Shah appointees in the BJP)
    2. Gujaratis (I will not be surprised if Gujarat BJP splits and the splinter group aligns with the Congress/opposition like the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. I also expect a lot of “I told you so” from Saamna)
    3. RSS’ monolith Hindu vote bank. There will be a clear divide between North and rest of India. Now it is more economic and social – it will also get political after 2026.
    4. Urbane and liberal North Indian voters. They will get marginalised and be left without a political voice in Yogi’s scheme of things in their own hometowns.

    Zainab Sikander is reading the tea leaves – she just needs to do a more precise job.

  26. Mahraj ji or anyone who will become PM of India, days for librandus, jihadis and Anti Hindus like The Print is not coming back.

  27. How does it matter who is going to come? Modi has already shown the way and Yogi will further carry it forward. One thing best to happen at least we are rid of ‘family rule’ that Congress wants to impose on us. It may hurt many people, but for us there is no difference between Modi and Yogi. Both are welcome for us. And BJP is showing all the way. Watch how JP Nadda has taken the mantle from Amit Shah. He is doing fine like duck takes to the water. Good they are brining more capable leaders instead of ‘only family chamcha’.

    • Mr Raja Mohanty: You bray:

      “.. best to happen at least we are rid of ‘family rule’ that Congress wants to impose on us ..”

      Well, your ilk seems to have forgotten that “family rule” has now been replaced by Gujarati rule and that the country has been sold to Ambani and Adani. Meanwhile, Indian democracy is in tatters and the country is sliding towards one man rule and fascism, aided and abetted by armachair gaurakshaks like you Mr Mohanty.

      Pathetic Mr Mohanty !

  28. Jihadists posing as journalists are venting hatred by pointing out non existent differences.

    This is PROOF enough THAT HINDUS COMING TOGETHER is creating anxiety amongst fundamentalist who want GHAZWA E HIND versus HINDUS who enjoy democracy and indeed want to enjoy present life and not after life.

  29. Modi and Yogi both have fan base across all communities and religions. They are decisive and have unmatched hardworking ability to serve people – they live and die for serving Indians – people who have nothing to do with BJP can see this. (This is a proof people do not rely media for their voting). In whatever the role they have been assigned before today, their performance has been always good.
    Yes, competition of such bright candidates is very good, it sets very high benchmark for national leadership role.

  30. Look at the line “Amit Shah was conspicuously absent from this historic moment that would be etched forever in the minds of a ‘devout’ Hindu — an emotive moment that would fetch many votes in decades to come.” how incorrect and deliberately wrong news these so called writer propagating. At time of bhumi pujan Amist Shah was suffering with covid-19 and was admitted to the hospital but look some media deliberately manipulating things. Shekhar Gupta should not allow this kind of biased and manipulative journalism if claim to be a tall neutral journalism.

  31. Well amit shah had COVID during Ayodhya amd Yogi himself knows he stands nothing in front of Modi. After Modi only Shah is going to take his place at national level. Yogi may be popular but he just cant be a face for India.After shah BJP is also grooming Fadnavis and Surya

  32. The reasons for the successes of Modi and Yogi are not just their personality, but the situations created in India. Under the congress rule, that always aligned with Muslims and Christians, Hindus felt helpless, voiceless, and being alienated. Their insecurity was similar to the colonial rule. The way minorities rode a rough shode over united the Hindus upon seeing a good leader. That’s all. Just as Mr. Gandhi could garner people under him against the Brits, Modi Yogi could bring the Hindus together against corruption, nepotism, congress’s debitating the state, open entry to all anti-Indian forces, and what not? That was enough…for not just the Hindus, but even those having no political interests started seeing a new governance, strong leaders, strong country, justice for all, challenging any forces that work against the country. People saw leaders of the kind of Modi Yogi for the first time in the history of India, unlike MounMohan kind of useless people. Now, this is going to be trend…

    And however worse your kind of media write against BJP, it will only help their unifying themselves more and more….

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