Asia-Pacific, India, Politics

Yogi Adityanath: The Priest Turned Politician

With 30 days up, Yogi Adityanath has managed to surprise not only the media but also the government itself. The five-time MP from Gorakhpur, Ajay Singh Bisht, popularly known as Yogi Adityanath, has been labeled as “Hindutva firebrand” by the public and media alike.

Who is Yogi Adityanath

He is a priest turned politician who is known more for his provocative speeches rather than his secular governance. Often seen clad in his trademark saffron robes, Yogi Adityanath was a gamble taken by BJP. However, to understand him and his one of kind governance, we have to understand his humble beginnings.

Born in a middle-class family in the village of Panchur, Ajay Singh Bisht completed his BSc (Mathematics) degree from HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar, Uttarakhand. Similar to the current Prime Minister, he left his home at an early age. He joined the Ayodhya Ram Temple Movement and later came under the influence of Mahant Avaidyanath, the chief priest of Gorakhnath Math. At the age of 21, he became the disciple and was subsequently, promoted to the rank of head priest. It was then Ajay Singh Bisht became Yogi Adityanath. Later, he was made the successor or the Peethadhishwar of the Gorakhnath Math.

The Career of Yogi Adityanath

Always known for his incendiary speeches, Yogi Adityanath was elected in the Lower House of the Indian Parliament in 1998. He was the youngest member of the Lok Sabha at the age of 26 and has an attendance of 77%. As soon as he was elected, he started his own militant youth wing “Hindu Yuva Vahini” which has been known for the violent activities in the eastern Uttar Pradesh but was also the key ingredient for the historic win of Adityanath. Due to his own independent power base, Yogi Adityanath never needed BJP’s or Modi’s power wave to win.

In the past, Yogi Adityanath has been part of various religious altercations. In 2005, he allegedly led a purification drive, which involved the conversion of Christians to Hinduism. Two years later, after an altercation between a Hindu group and Muslims during Muharram procession, the District Magistrate made clear to Adityanath that he should not visit the site as it may inflame tensions. However, when the hurt Hindu boy, Agrahari died, he disobeyed the magistrate, visited the site, and started a non-violent dharna with his followers.

Yogi Adityanath as a Politician

With a history as volatile as that of Yogi Adityanath, it is quite difficult to understand how well he would be able to manage a state as communally sensitive as Uttar Pradesh. Afterall, it is home to 79.7% Hindus and 19.3% Muslims. After his appointment as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, he took some radical decisions for the state:

  • An hour after he took the oath, Yogi Adityanath ordered all ministers to declare their income, movable and immovable properties within 15 days.  Yogi Adityanath asked them to submit declarations to the CM secretariat.
  • He shut down all illegal slaughterhouses in the state.
  • He formed anti-Romeo squads for the protection of women. When the anti-Romeo action created an outrage with the way police responded, Adityanath, on March 25th, ordered framing of guidelines and said the police should not be inhuman while implementing it.
  • He imposed a blanket ban on cow smuggling.
  • Yogi Adityanath put a stay on the UPPSC results exams and interviews until his further notice.
  • He imposed a ban on tobacco, pan, and gutka in government offices across the state.
  • He made the government officials pledge to devote 100 hours every year to the Swacch Bharat mission.
  • In his first cabinet mission, he waived off loans of nearly 87 lakh of small and marginal farmers of Uttar Pradesh amounting to Rs. 363.59 billion ($5.6 billion).
  • On March 25, Adityanath set a deadline of June 15th for making all UP roads pothole-free.
  • The new CM has also announced Metro train projects for Gorakhpur (his Lok Sabha constituency) and Jhansi.
  • The Adityanath government also signed an agreement with the Centre assuring 24-hour power supply to the district headquarters, 20-hour supply at tehsil level and in Bundelkhand region, and 18 hours in rural areas. The government declared that by November 2018, all the villages and households in the state will get a power supply.

Scepticism Remains

While a majority of these decisions have made the denizens of the sate fan of their current Chief Minister, the major decision on shutting down slaughterhouses and cow banning has made the Muslim population a bit skeptic. Media in India and abroad have hailed the first 30 days of Yogi Adityanath as successful; however, what is going to happen in the leftover 4 years and 11 months has yet to be seen.

About Shagun Benipal

Writer by day, reader by night, Shagun is known for her love of coins, old photographs and books. She loves to share her thoughts on politics, world and space.

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