Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s credentials as an able administrator may be discounted by his critics and the opposition parties, but there is no denying the fact that the monk-turned-politician has emerged as the strongest Hindu leader in the past four years. The chief minister has firmly re-established his credential as a Hindu leader and makes no bones about being ‘fashionably secular’.
Barely two months in office, he had refused to visit the Eidgah on Eid- a tradition followed by all his predecessors. “I am a Hindu and I do not celebrate Eid,” he had said when questioned about his decision. The chief minister, in the past four years, has made a concerted bid to promote religious tourism in the state.
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He started by organizing a ‘Deepotsav’ program in Ayodhya on the eve of Diwali in 2017 and a record of sorts was created by lighting 1.76 lakh earthen ‘diyas’ on the banks of the Saryu river. The event that is now an annual feature, has grown in size and grandeur with each passing year.
The chief minister also announced a massive development package for Ayodhya – from the renovation of the railway station to the construction of a new airport. The Supreme Court verdict in favor of the Ram temple in Ayodhya in November 2019 acted as a catalyst and Yogi Adityanath has speeded up the development projects in the holy city.
He personally monitors the progress of the projects and the idea is to make Ayodhya suitable for national and international tourists. The state government is pushing for the completion of projects before the completion of the Ram temple. Apart from Ayodhya, Yogi Adityanath has also paid equal, if not more, attention to the development of Varanasi, which is a major religious center, apart from being Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency.
Work on the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, renovation of Ghats, and beautification of the heritage city are in full swing and likely to be completed before the next assembly elections. The Yogi Adityanath government celebrated the Kumbh Mela — which was actually Ardh Kumbh — in Prayagraj in 2019 and set up a Prayagraj Mela Authority which will be a permanent body to oversee the event.
The Kumbh Mela in 2019, attracted global attention and earned accolades for the state government. Bedsides, Yogi Adityanath has set up the Brij Pilgrimage Area Development Council to ensure the development of Mathura-Vrindavan. The chief minister has also set up the Naimisharanya Teerth Kshetra Vikas Parishad, Vindhya Teerth Kshetra Vikas Parishad, Shukradham Teerth Vikas Parishad, Chitrakoot Teerth Kshetra Vikas Parishad, and the Devipatan Teerth Vikas Parishad to ensure the development of the five shrines in these areas.
Though he has focused on the development of Hindu shrines, Yogi Adityanath has not ignored other shrines in the religious circuit. Shravasti, Kapilvastu, and Kushinagar in Buddhist Circuit are being developed and other sites connected with Mahabharat including Hastinapur are also being given a makeover. It is the chief minister’s spectacular emergence as an icon of Hindutva that has enhanced his popularity to such an extent that he is now a much sought-after star campaigner from Kerala to West Bengal.
In all his campaigns in a non-Hindi-speaking state, Yogi Adityanath begins and ends his speeches with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ which is appropriately reciprocated by the crowds. For the BJP, his popularity is a boon but it has also turned him into an invincible Hindu leader in the party — one who cannot be ignored. (IANS/SP)