Today will complete the transition from Ajay Singh Bisht – the person, to Yogi Adityanath – the religious priest, to the political and administrative head of India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh (UP).
Yogi Adityanath, 44, has been hand-picked to be appointed today as the 21st Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and will be sworn-in at ceremony attended by the Prime Minister and other senior leaders of BJP.
Senior BJP leader and State Party President Keshav Maurya, along with Dinesh Sharma, will be sworn-in as the Deputy Chief Ministers of the state.
The nation and people of the state were caught by surprise when Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu announced yesterday that BJP party MLAs had proposed and unanimously supported sitting 5-time Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath, for the post of Chief Minister.
The party high command led by the PM, and party President endorsed the decision and gave their approval.
The choice of firebrand leader Yogi Adityanath as CM in India’s most important political state, marks a turning point in Indian politics, and is perhaps the first overt assertion that the extreme right will henceforth play a more crucial role in central politics.
Since independence in 1947, politics in India has been driven by Jawaharlal Nehru of the Congress, who largely followed a secular and centrist path, where minorities were given greater acceptance and freedom than seen in many other multi-ethnic countries.
Muslim appeasement has been a politically sensitive issue in India, causing heartburn among the majority communities, especially since Muslims comprise 15% of the total population.
BJP has been trying unsuccessfully for several years to build a political base on right wing Hindutva agenda, but failed in all its earlier attempts, as voters seemed more keen to support ‘development’-based agendas, backed by secular politics.
That seemed to be the case until Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine changed all that in 2017 UP assembly elections, with a resounding victory that clearly points to resurgence in demand for development but on a ‘Hindutva’ agenda.
The appointment of Yogi Adityanath marks a defining moment in Indian politics, as India clearly shifts away from the Nehruvian brand of politics to a right- wing-driven one. He now becomes the first Hindu monk to head a state in India.
The Man and his Politics
Ajay Singh Bisht was born on June 5, 1972 in Panchur, a small village in Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Srinagar, Uttarakhand but soon decided to live as a monk.
He was taken in as a disciple of Mahant Avaidyanath of Gorakhpur Mutt; adopting the name – Yogi Adityanath. Mahant Avaidyanath originally belonged to the Hindu Mahasabha, but later joined BJP in 1991. He was soon elected as the Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur.
Yogi Adityanath’s powerful oratory and grassroots organisational skills were discovered when he took charge of his guru’s election campaign. It was a matter of time before Mahant Avaidyanath was to pronounce his favourite disciple as heir to his religious and political legacy.
In 1998, at the age of 26, Yogi Adityanath contested the Lok Sabha seat from Gorakhpur and won, thus becoming the youngest MP in Lok Sabha. He has since retained his seat five consecutive times – 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014.
He created the Hindu Yuva Vahini, as a socio-cultural organisation for the youth, but the actual reason was to have a disciplined cadre that would carry his message to the masses and help enforce his brand of politics.
Yogi Adityanath has been very outspoken about his extreme right wing Hindu agenda that he believes should be central to Indian politics and lifestyle.
He is a strong proponent of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and believes Hindus must re-assert their right and must fight Muslim and other minority appeasement that other political parties have been indulging in.
Controversy’s Favourite Child
Yogi Adityanath has always been in the news either on account of his actions or controversial statements that he regularly makes.
He has been a very vocal supporter of building the Ram temple in Ayodhya and with his taking over as CM, his actions and statements on the subject will be closely followed.
In 2005, he initiated re-conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism in what the media then called “Ghar Wapsi”. While he received a lot of support from the Hindu community, the minorities began fearing his growing political clout.
In fact, he has even spoken out against Mother Teresa saying she encouraged Hindu conversion to Christianity.
In 2007, he made a fiery speech against the Muslim community which triggered violence in the state. He was arrested and was kept in jail for 15 days. The Hindu Yuva Vahini’s followers resorted to violence post his arrest, torching coaches of the Mumbai-Gorakhpur Godan Express.
More recently, he openly supported the lynching of Muhammed Akhlaq, who was reported to have slaughtered a cow and stored its beef in his house.
Other controversial comments have included those against the Muslim community for objecting to performing the Surya Namaskar, a critical exercise posture in Yoga. He raised people’s eyebrows when he compared popular Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to known Pakistani terrorist, Hafiz Sayeed.
It now remains to be seen whether PM Modi’s gamble with Yogi Adityanath pays off in 2019 or will it turn out to be a case of shooting oneself in the foot.