Uttar Pradesh, September 21, 2017 : On the morning of March 21 this year, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister’s residence at 5 Kalidas Marg, was witnessing an influx of pandits – a practice that was to become a common event in the following days. A monk in a saffron robe was to now lead the people of India’s largest state, not with his Tilak and jhanda, but as a political leader.
Before the world came to know him as Yogi Adityanath, he belonged to a Rajput family- Ajay Singh Bisht, born in a small region of present day Uttarakhand (previously UP) in 1972. A young Ajay attended college in Kotdwara in 1989, and graduated in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics.
It was around the same time that the Ram Mandir movement gained momentum in the country, and a young Ajay was immensely influenced, to the extent that he joined the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Ajay had planned to join Gorakhpur University, but fate had other plans.
Yogi And The Gorakhnath Temple
University never happened, however, Gorakhpur continued to be a focal point in his life. Gorakhnath Temple, wasa key point in the Ram Mandir movement as it was the place from where the movement was mobilised to different parts of UP.
The Nath Sampradaya, of which he is a part, does not believe in caste distinctions and Gorakhnath Temple is their biggest shrine.
The mahants of the temple are not Brahmins but Rajputs, which hence, establishes Ajay’s association to the place.
The temple has had a long history of political engagement. Having stayed central throughout the Ram Mandir movement, a number of its mahants have also been a part of political parties.
A four time MLA who had contested from the Maniram constituency, Mahant Avaidyanath had been a member of the Parliament four times from Gorakhpur.
Yogi Adityanath is the successor of Mahant Avaidyanath.
He began his political association in 1996, by managing the political campaign of Avaidyanath. In 1998, Yogi Adityanath, upon being coaxed by Mahant Avaidyanath, contested the Lok Sabha polls and won. He was 26 years old at the time.
— bhaarat premi (@bhaarat_premi) March 19, 2017
However, the Yogi merely crawled to victory in the 1999 election by a mere margin of 7,000 votes. Upon witnessing wavering attention from the voters, a true politician was hence, born.
Yogi became active beyond the math (temple complex); he started touring extensively in eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh. Drawing upon the Nath sect’s tradition, Yogi facilitated every Hindu caste, thus gained popularity among every caste which created a platform for him.
Yogi Adityanath had not won the first election he ever fought in his life (in college), the reason for which was the absence of elaborate campaigning. He continued to be a little restricted in this regard until the 1999 elections.
However, now he worked on his own weaknesses and appealed to the Hindus in the area, proposing himself as a man of less words, but also somebody who didn’t mince words.
In 2002, differences emerged between Yogi Adityanath and his guru Avaidyanath over an expansion of influence beyond Gorakhpur.
The Yogi, hoping to establish his ideology beyond the region, established a ‘cultural organisation’ by the name of Hindu Yuva Vahini with an intent to curb anti Hindu activities and fight the rising influence of the Maoists.
Rifts Between Yogi Adityanath And BJP
Though Yogi was a BJP MP, he has always had a troubled relationship with the party. And although he had never previously occupied a position at the BJP party, he is also known to occupy a central stance in its functioning; dictating terms and influencing decisions.
- In 2007, the Yogi almost quit BJP ahead of the Assembly elections. However, a compromise was reached and he was given a say on the distribution of tickets in his region. Out of the eight tickets that were given to staunch Yogi supporters, only one won.
- In 2012, Yogi didn’t once mince words to criticize BJP’s decision over the inclusion of an ex leader of BSP, Babu Singh Khushwaha. Was he inducted, you ask? He wasn’t. Talk about exercising influence.
- In 2014, Yogi Adityanath was entrusted with the Assembly-by elections in UP, the campaign for which extensively drew upon issues like cow protection and ‘Love Jihad’. However, the party only won 3 seats out of 7, losing them to Samajwadi Party.
Yogi’s Commitment To BJP
Despite an uneasy relationship with the BJP, the saffron-clad Yogi offered dedicated services to the party in the state-Assembly elections held in March this year. He successfully mobilized the Hindu electorate from the lengths and breadths of the state, particularly from western-UP which continues to remain communally stimulated.
He addressed election meetings in all parts of the state- like Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, and Shamli district. Draped in garlands, the Yogi was also seen alongside BJP chief Amit Shah campaigning during his road show in Gorakhpur, ahead of BJP’s sweeping victory of eight out of nine seats in the Gorakhpur district. This was when slogans of ‘Jai Sai Ram’ being raised in Muslim-dominated areas made national headlines.
After winning the state-Assembly elections by a landslide (312 out of 403 seats), the BJP on March 18 this year announced Yogi Adityanath as the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, thus putting all speculations to rest.
Controversy’s Child Yogi
When Yogi Adityanath assumed the chair of the new CM of UP, his father allegedly advised him to “show respect for all religions”. A Hindu hardliner, the Yogi has a history of inciting religious sentiments with hate speeches,
- In an undated video from a speech in Azamgarh, the Yogi hit hard with his words upon conversions saying, “If one Hindu girl is converted, we will convert 100 Muslim girls.
- In 2014, ahead of the International Yoga Day in June, the Yogi asserted the association of Yoga to Hindu mythology and said “those who do not want to practice Yoga can leave Hindustan”
- In 2015, when actor Shah Rukh Khan asserted the need for freedom of expression in the country, Yogi Adityanath retorted saying, “Shah Rukh Khan should remember that the majority population of the country has made him the star that he is. If they boycott his films, he will have to wander the streets, I think there is no difference between his language and that of Hafiz Saeed (Pakistani terrorist)
The Hindu Yuva Vahini
Adityanath Yogi today represents the tout of BJP that does not shy away from practicing hard Hindutwa. An anti-minority organisation that essentially caters to an ultimate aim to turn India into a Hindu nation.
In his book ‘Yogi Adityanath and the Hindu Yuva Vahini’, author Dhirendra K. Jha asserted that the organisation has, since its inception indulged in communal violence. He outlined in his book that the HYV relied on extremely aggressive and toxic campaigns, that largely included the projection of minorities as the rivals of the Hindus and in turn, overturning every small event into mass communal wars.
Having made communal riots seem normal in Gorakhpur and adjoining areas, the Vahini leaders have never been in the receiving end of warnings from the local administration of the state. The state however, took a disciplinary actions once in 2007 when Yogi Adityanath was arrested for inciting communal passions during the Muharram Tazia procession.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini has always enjoyed a strong hold in Gorakhpur and other parts of Eastern UP, drawing support from the Hindus upon the meat eating (especially cow meat) habits of the Muslim population.
— mohammad shameem (@mohammadshame15) August 15, 2017
After the Yogi’s appointment as the Chief Minister of UP, the organisation has witnessed rampant expansion of its influence beyond the region, to the extent that RSS and a section of the BJP have raise questions on its functioning.
Lately, the Vahini has been in news for its involvement in Anti-Romeo Squads- a campaign aimed to curb harassment of women but in reality was propaganda to check upon and curtail relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.
Six Months of Yogi Sarkar
Yogi Adityanath has now, completed 6 months of assuming power as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Upon being sworn in as the chief minister, development and a crime-free state had assumed the top agenda for the new UP government. While there has been developmental improvement as far as new infrastructure is concerned, the state continues to take high in failure of power supply and crime rate with a rise in the number of gang rapes and murder cases. The Yogi’s decision to ban illegal slaughterhouses also instigated debates in the country.
The Yogi’s ‘Anti-Romeo squad’ to protect women and students against harassment was appreciated for the first three months when over 500 cases were registered and tended to. However, eventually the campaign drew controversy when the squad faced accusations of unethical harassment, bribery and moral policing.
Another controversial subject has been farm loan waivers for small and marginal farmers. The government claimed the scheme will offer relief of up to Rs. 1 lakh to about 86 lakh farmers. While debts were waived and certificates given, some farmers have received cheques of Rs 20, Rs 9, and even 1 paisa (Rs. 0.01). This is being termed as the ‘cruelest joke’ of the BJP-led Yogi government.
More recently, the biggest blow during his rule in the state has been the Gorakhpur tragedy when more than sixty children died a painful death due to lack of oxygen supply in BRD Hospital in Gorakhpur. The tragedy triggered an enormous outcry throughout the country with the Centre ordering high level inquiries. The incident also brought backlash on the Yogi-government with Congress holding Yogi Adityanath accountable and demanding him to resign from the power.
— Congress (@INCIndia) August 12, 2017
To look at the positive side of the Hindutva leader’s rule in Uttar Pradesh, the UP government has paid over Rs 20,000 crore to sugarcane farmers, clearing dues of over 93 per cent of the farmers. The state of roads is also touted to have improved in his rule.
A landmark step has been the Anti-Geo Mafia Portal to counter illegal land-grabbing. The portal has successfully registered complaints followed by subsequent and immediate action against the land-mafias.
Previously, in a media conference in June, Yogi Adityanath had unveiled a booklet ‘100 Din Vishwas Ke’ (100 days of trust), and declared 2017 as ‘Garib Kalyan Varsh’ (year of upliftment of poor)
Indeed, the journey of Adityanath Yogi from a monk to a chief minister has not been less than a phenomenon in itself.