The Hindu Yuva Vahini, the youth outfit founded by Yogi Adityanath in 2002, is planning an image makeover – from an unruly band of men ready to flex muscles and lathis in the name of the Hindu cause to an organisation with strict membership rules and streamlined operations. Sources said a name change too could be on the cards.
On August 3, the Vahini dissolved all its organisational units in Uttar Pradesh, and sources said the outfit is likely to be restructured ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The revamp, sources said, was imperative considering the outfit continues to be closely linked to Adityanath, though he had tried to clamp down on its aggressive ways after he became Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister for the first time in 2017.
Among the plans, they said, is a steady expansion of the Vahini beyond UP to other states. The outfit now has a strong presence in the eastern UP districts of Gorakhpur, Deoria, Kushinagar, Azamgarh, Mau, Sant Kabir Nagar and Basti.
Experts from various fields are believed to be engaged in drawing up bylaws for a revamped Vahini, with rules for membership and appointment of office-bearers. Sources also said that as part of the image makeover, the outfit will take care to enlist members from the “service and business classes” and social outfits.
Raghvendra Singh, former BJP MLA and earlier state in-charge of the Vahini, told The Sunday Express, “We dissolved the Vahini since many other organisations with similar names had cropped up over the last five years and were involved in shady activities. The restructuring will be done in a month or two.”
Sources said the decision to restructure the Vahini has the consent of the top BJP leadership.
The Vahini’s strong-arm image is linked to a number of cases against its members. Before the BJP came to power, during the Mulayam Singh Yadav government (2004-07) and later Mayawati’s regime (2007-2011), several members of the outfit were named in cases of communal riots and tensions in Gorakhpur, Mau, Azamgarh, Kushinagar and elsewhere.
In February this year, Raghvendra Singh, the former state in-charge of the Vahini, was booked in a hate speech case in Siddharth Nagar district. He contested the Assembly selection as a BJP candidate from Domariyaganj constituency but lost to the Samajwadi Party.
Adityanath had founded the Vahini in 2002 as an organisation to work for Hindu culture and cow protection, and against untouchability. After the 2017 elections, enthused by Adityanath taking over as CM, the organisation had burst on to the scene with its members turning into vigilantes.
They were accused of forcibly entering homes alleging love jihad, imposing moral policing and attacking alleged cattle smugglers. They had piped down only after Adityanath’s rap to avoid controversies.
Ever since, the outfit has maintained a low profile, only to briefly emerge from the shadows to campaign for Adityanath during the Assembly elections earlier this year.