Putting an end to a week of speculations, in a move that surprised many, the BJP on Saturday declared Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. His swearing-in ceremony will take place tomorrow and will have Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP Chief Amit Shah in attendance.
A highly polarizing figure, the firebrand politician is well known for making provocative speeches that hinge on divisive lines. From comparing Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to Pakistani terrorist Hafeez Saeed, to asking people to leave India if they don’t practise Surya Namaskar, he has been at the centre of several controversies.
A strong votary of construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, he successfully drove the BJP’s Hindutva campaign in eastern UP in the just concluded Assembly polls. In fact, the priest turned politician played the religious card actively during his pre-poll campaign, talking about how ‘love Jihad’ and ‘Kairana Hindu’ exodus were important agendas for his party.
Here are some things you should know about the new UP Chief Minister:
1. He is an MP from Lok Sabha, and has been winning consistently from his constituency since 1998.
2. He was born Ajay Mohan Bisht, but later changed his name after his indoctrination into the Nath sect.
3. Since 2014, he has also been the chief priest at Gorakhnath temple.
4. The yogi’s name is also associated with the 2007 communal violence that broke out in Uttar Pradesh. His inflammatory speeches allegedly led to the riots in the state.
5. As per his poll affidavit, Adityanath has three criminal cases registered against him including rioting, promoting enmity between religious groups and attempt to murder.
6. In January this year, Adityanath had said that the situation in western UP was similar to the situation in Kashmir 27 years ago.”When I look at western UP, I have regrets… when I see the social framework and demography… On January 19, 1990, Hindus had to migrate collectively from Kashmir. A massacre took place, the honour of mothers and sisters were openly tramped upon. If we have seen a sight similar to this anywhere, it was either in Bengal or western UP. Kairana and Kandhla are examples. Is Kairana not an issue? Is Kashmir not an issue? If this country’s majority, Hindus, are tortured, is it not an issue? But if a thorn pricks the foot of someone from the minority community, it becomes an issue. This politics is strange,” he had said.
7. He also floated Hindu Yuva Vahini, a right-wing outfit, in 2002. The outfit, is considered to have played a vital role in ensuring his meteoric rise – from a student leader to five-time MP.
At his many speeches, PM Modi had promised vikas (development) to UP, but Adityanath’s credentials and his appointment expressly suggests that it will be ‘mandir’ politics that will form the crux of BJP’s plan for the state and dictate it’s decisions.
For the longest time, BJP conveniently dismissed elements like Adityanath as ‘fringe’. His appointment therefore only confirms one thing. In UP, fringe is all set to assume centre stage.