If the overwhelming mandate for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh
surprised many, the party’s choice of Chief Minister – Yogi Adityanath
– shocked rival parties, media and, some say, even many leaders within the party.
But many locals aren’t too surprised. They believe that Adityanath (named Ajay Singh Bisht by family) is the right person for the job because of his strong work ethics, lifestyle and, of course, his credentials as a Hindu hardliner.
His 12-by-12 room in the Gorakhnath temple has just one bed and a table. From personally feeding gud (jaggery) to almost 400 cows a day to holding a meeting with locals in the area every morning, Yogi Adityanath, or baba as he is popularly called in the area, has given personal attention to the place.
Baba’s followers believe that he can do no wrong. And even if he does it, it is for the larger good. For example, his daily meetings are held without any bias towards the rich or poor or -- if one goes by locals -- any religion either. People waiting to meet baba are fed lassi. There is just one condition: Don’t lie to baba. The offender is punished by allowing someone else to cultivate his land for months or somethings even harsher.
In these meetings, doles are given out for marriages and children’s education, disputes are resolved, and so on. The best part: The meetings don’t end till the last person is heard. A local says that half the disputes get resolved once a party says he/she is going to baba for resolution.
The entire day’s schedule is based on the morning meeting. After that, baba visits the hospital and other parts of the temple complex that need his attention.
According to locals, all doctors practising in the area and other hospitals spend some time every day at the mutt’s hospital and see patients for a nominal fee. And, gone are the days when doctors lived under the fear of being kidnapped for ransom – an association with baba’s temple ensures safety. Similarly, discounts are offered by medical shops within the mutt.
Some may complain that it is dictatorial, but locals feel that given the high fees of doctors and health care, most people benefit. In the 53-acre temple, even onion and garlics are not used for cooking.
Given this background, few are surprised by his initial decisions – closure of illegal slaughter houses, 25-acre land for Ram Museum
in Ayodhya, stay on UP Public Service Commission results and Anti-Romeo squads.
With debates will continuing on whether the BJP has taken the right decision and the whether the hardliner route it has taken in India’s largest state is good, here are some unenviable numbers for the state of affairs in UP.
Data from National Crime Records Bureau’s Crime in India 2015 show that the state topped the list of murders and kidnapping. Unemployment, at 58/1,000, is more than the national average of 37/1,000. And the state's GDP growth rate is among the lowest in the country. The challenge for baba now is improving these vital stats for the state.