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What can’t be said with a thousand words, can be said with a photo

🔴 Modi, for example, has often been captured mid-handshake or hug with global leaders, but it was perhaps the first time he featured in such a one-on-one with a party CM.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: December 11, 2021 10:30:45 pm
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath. (Photo: Twitter/CMO)

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to his right, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya to his left, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising the hand of both, simultaneously, during the course of a rally at Adityanath’s bastion of Gorakhpur. This was on November 26, six days after Adityanath put out photos of Modi and him walking in deep conversation, the PM’s arm around his shoulders, along with a tweet resolving to build a better India, and not interestingly just UP. On December 9, Maurya released photos of his own with the PM, during an apparently sudden “courtesy” visit to Delhi.

So will Adityanath be CM again should the BJP come back to power in UP? Or won’t he? The three images were parsed and pored over, and perhaps, as intended, left none the wiser – least of all the prime contenders in UP’s frenzied poll race.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is greeted by UP BJP President Keshav Prasad Maurya at the BJP Vijay Shankhnad Rally in Meerut ahead of the Assembly polls. (PTI)

In politics where a thousand words may say little, a picture often does speak louder about the straws in the wind.

Modi, for example, has often been captured mid-handshake or hug with global leaders, but it was perhaps the first time he featured in such a one-on-one with a party CM.

“The photo of Modiji and Yogiji walking together was a clear message for the UP BJP,” said a senior BJP Rajya Sabha MP. “It was certainly part of building a narrative ahead of the election to reinforce Yogiji’s leadership and the Prime Minister’s endorsement of it.” A party leader who is an office-bearer in the organisation said: “Of course, it was meant to tell the voters who would be at the helm of affairs.”

Narendra Modi with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar at the NDA rally in Ludhiana in 2009. (Express Photo/File)

Pictures of Modi and Maurya were the requisite balancing act – with Maurya the tallest OBC leader of the BJP, the party could hardly do otherwise.

In 2009, at a time when Modi was only the first among several BJP CMs, and his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar the star who shined brighter, an NDA rally in Ludhiana had sent a hint of the change in the air. Having publicly distanced himself from Modi on account of the 2002 Gujarat riots, Nitish had just smiled as Modi had clutched his hand and raised it.

The memory of that image haunted Nitish, and his political catapults, for long after. When it came time for the 2010 Bihar elections, BJP hoardings and advertisements carrying that photo from a year ago were taken offence to by the JD(U). In the state, Nitish was seen as a “secular”, pro-development leader, equally admired by its Muslims. Nitish expressed his displeasure with a last-minute cancellation of a dinner for NDA allies. He even returned the Rs 5 crore Gujarat had contributed as flood relief, after the latter also put out advertisements for the same.

Dimple Yadav with the stage with Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati in Kannauj in 2019. (TV grab)

Three years later, Nitish walked out of the NDA as Modi emerged as its prime ministerial candidate. A decade later, the JD(U) leader is back in the NDA fold, as a tiny partner.

In April 2019, an even unlikelier image came ahead of another Lok Sabha election. Then Samajwadi Party Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple showed BSP chief Mayawati the ultimate honour by touching her feet at a rally in Kannuaj. If anyone had any lingering doubts about the BSP and SP ever managing to put the bitterness of their fractured alliance of the early 1990s behind, this settled them. A ‘grand alliance’ followed, even though it did little to contain the BJP’s sweep.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, son Aditya Thackeray with Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 2020.
(Phot: Twitter/INC)

In November 2019, two other unusual partners sealed their deal with a photo. Having outsmarted the BJP at its own power game in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray called on Congress leader Sonia Gandhi to invite her to his father Uddhav’s swearing-in as CM. This would have once been unthinkable from a party whose founder Bal Thackeray said it would be better to hand India over back to the British than being governed by an “Italian”, and who called the Congress a “cancer”.

In February 2020, the father-son duo of Uddhav and Aditya together called on Sonia. The bouquet they came bearing was faithfully photographed.

And then there is the absence of a photo. As Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee aims for a national role, her Delhi visit did not include a stopover at the Gandhis’. Soon after, the Sena, indicating its preference in the leadership stakes between the TMC and Cong, sent over MP Sanjay Raut to meet Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

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