Five-time Lok Sabha member from Gorakhpur and the controversial head priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt, the saffron-clad Yogi Adityanath is set to be the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP). Adityanath, 44, is a firebrand Hindutva leader.
His name has the stamp of approval from the BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The new chief minister (CM) and his council of ministers, including two deputy chief ministers — Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma — will be sworn-in by UP Governor Ram Naik on Sunday afternoon.
Adityanath’s name was announced after the BJP’s legislative party meeting in Lucknow on Saturday. Uttarakhand’s Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, a lifelong RSS pracharak, was also sworn-in at Dehradun on Saturday.
A government under Adityanath is likely to pursue the BJP’s manifesto promises of banning all slaughterhouses across UP. These are mostly owned by the Muslim community. The government would also be expected to complete the Sangh Parivar’s unfinished agenda of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Small and marginal farmers would also expect the BJP government to fulfil its electoral promise of waiving off loans. In his speech to the party legislators, Adityanath said his government’s agenda will be development and welfare of the poor.
While Adityanath has been an MP since 1998 and heads a sprawling temple in Gorakhpur, he has no administrative experience. His challenge will be to reinvent himself from a Hindutva icon to somebody who can also pursue the development agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government at the Centre. He will also be expected to keep his militant supporters under check.
Adityanath has in the past led campaigns for conversion of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism, cow protection, “love jihad” and has even been arrested once in 2007 on charges of inciting communal violence. The announcement of Adityanath’s name for CM was cheered by his supporters in Lucknow with slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Ram Mandir banega (Ram Temple will be built)”.
Adityanath, whose real name is Ajay Singh, hails from a Rajput family in Garhwal, Uttarakhand. His elevation as CM shows that the BJP hopes to further consolidate its Hindutva vote ahead the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The Hindutva consolidation contributed significantly to the BJP and its allies winning 325 of 403 seats in UP polls. But the party has not ignored the caste configurations that also helped it return to power in Lucknow after a gap of 14 years. It has proposed to appoint Maurya, the BJP’s state unit chief and its OBC face, and Sharma, the party’s next generation Brahmin face and Lucknow mayor, as deputy CMs.
In the Assembly polls, the BJP had effectively stitched an upper caste and non-Yadav OBC alliance.
Adityanath has been chosen despite his propensity to not always toe the party line in the past. His name emerged after a weeklong speculation, where Maurya, Sharma, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha and even Home Minister Rajnath Singh were spoken of as possible contenders for the job.
According to sources, the party leadership couldn’t build consensus among the legislators on Sinha’s name. Central observers M Venkaiah Naidu and Bhupender Yadav consulted legislators to reach the conclusion that Adityanath was the most acceptable face.
On Saturday afternoon, Adityanath reached New Delhi in a chartered flight to meet the party’s top leadership before returning to Lucknow, where his name was announced after the BJP legislature party meeting.
In the run up to the polls, Adityanath had demanded that at least 100 candidates of his choice be given tickets, and had even threatened to put up rebel candidates against the party’s official ones in his sphere of influence in eastern UP. However, the top BJP leadership reached out to him and employed him effectively during campaigning.
In a first for Adityanath, he had a dedicated helicopter at his disposal and addressed on average half a dozen election meetings daily.
In the UP campaign, marked by efforts at communal polarisation, it was common for Adityanath’s supporters to shout slogans like “Desh mein Modi, Pradesh mein Yogi (Modi in India, Yogi in UP)”.