The BJP government shocked and astounded political pundits and many in their own cadre when they picked the fire brand Hindutva leader, Yogi Adityanath to head the state legislature of Uttar Pradesh.
Yogi is no stranger to politics or to the people of UP. The head priest of the Gorakhnath Math, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, is a five time Member of Parliament from the Gorakhpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, since 1998. He is the founder of Hindu Yuva Vahini, an extremist and militant youth organisation. To the Yogi, politics and religion are intertwined and often, inseparable.
He was born to Anand Singh Bisht, a forest ranger, on 5 June 1972 and named Ajay Mohan Bisht. His birth place, a tiny village of Panchur, in Pauri Garhwal, is located in today’s Uttarakhand. A mathematics graduate from the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Uttarakhand, he renounced his family and took sanyas at the young age of 21. At the age of 26, in 1998, he was the youngest MP in the 12th Lok Sabha.
As the Chief Minister of the most populous state, he made waves from the word go. While some of his directives were generally welcomed, many more rubbed the moderates, the minorities and even some of his colleagues, the wrong way. An hour after taking office, he ordered all his ministers to declare their assets within the fortnight.
While the masses cheered, he declared his government would not tolerate corruption within its ranks. He also had his ministers take an oath of cleanliness, which government offices and undertakings in the state is sorely in need of. Offering to promote regional dialects, he also took a firm stand against the lax attitude of government servants. Announcing a metro network for his constituency Gorakhpur and Jhansi, he also vowed to repair the roads across the state within a month.
His efforts to check eve teasing by creating an anti-Romeo squad did give rise to murmurs of violation of individual freedom and choice; but the crackdown on acid attacks went down well with most in the State. His order banning the use of ‘Paan-masala, Gutkha’ and the like in public places, especially hospitals and schools, did disgruntle a significant section of the UP population.
The Chief Minister has also turned his attention to cow slaughter, drawing flak from the Muslim population and leading to a strike by traders and skirmishes in many places.
While he is settling down into his role as the CM, Yogi Adityanath remains committed to the formation of the contentious Ram Temple in Ayodhya. His track record does not indicate that he is committed to a secular state and communal harmony. In trying to portray himself as a strong leader, who is pro-Hindutva, while holding up law and order, the CM, many believe, is walking the proverbial tight rope.