The outcome of the UP elections is unfolding in an uncomfortable manner. Attacks on meat shops, overzealous implementation of regulations on abattoirs, harassment of young people allegedly for simply being together do not speak well of the priorities of the new government. Of course, some of it is bureaucratic zeal, aimed at pleasing the new masters.

For the record, the new Yogi Adityanath government has made all the right noises, spoken of the need to implement rules and so on. But its top-down “ban the problem” style governance does not bode well for the future.

The challenges before this new state government are enormous and so it is legitimate to raise questions about its priorities. Any checklist would have suggested non-existent law and order, general lack of sanitation, food adulteration, poor education, widespread prevalence of spurious medicine, shoddy conditions of hospitals, and insecurity of women. But it speaks volumes for a government that has focussed on meat. Yes, meat must be properly handled and sold in licensed shops, but that is true of all other food products as well, especially milk which is almost routinely adulterated in large parts of UP.

It would be the most obtuse person who misses the signalling that is going on here. It began with BJP having no Muslims on its election list. It was accentuated by the prime minister’s remarks on “shamshans and kabristans” in the course of the election campaign. Now, not all Hindus are vegetarians, nor practice the cremation of their dead. Indeed, probably more Hindus eat meat than are vegetarians. But almost all Muslims are likely to be non-vegetarians and bury their dead.

What we are witnessing is an attempt at majoritarian consolidation. BJP attacked SP and BSP for casteism and “identity” politics. But the party’s own strategy is no different in seeking to create a larger vote bank, this one comprising of all the Hindus.

As for vegetarianism, a subtext to the anti-meat campaign, it is about the new identity politics that are being pushed by BJP based on its Hindutva ideology. This has a pointed view on what a good Hindu is, and by implication what a good Indian ought to be. This is a retrograde development. Hindu culture has never been easy to categorise because of its incredible diversity, nor has it ever accepted a single sect or idea as being the dominant. Now a movement, largely representing upper castes, is seeking to push its own definitions down everyone’s throat.

Privileging communitarian politics of BJP seems to be going along with increasing pressure on individual rights and privacy. This has manifested itself in the emergence of systems where PAN and Aadhaar numbers are being used to keep track of everyone’s activities. Government variously claims that this is to promote digitisation and prevent Indians from evading taxes. But there is little or no talk about guarantees against the misuse of this enormous data base.

It’s not surprising that our founding fathers, mostly practising Hindus, insisted on making the individual the basic unit of the new Indian state in the Constitution they wrote for it. India was unique in adopting “one man, one vote” democracy at a time when this was not even prevalent in many parts of the developed world. This came as much from their rootedness in the society they came from, as from the liberal British tradition in which many were educated. This is in sharp contrast to those whose ideological forbears sat out the freedom movement.

Around the world, the state is losing ground to the individual who is increasingly being empowered by technology. But the political leadership of BJP wants to take us back towards the era of a “mai baap sarkar” where uniformity and conformity are being pushed as ideals. Such a development cannot but undermine innovation and entrepreneurship, the two drivers of a 21st century economy.