LUCKNOW: After a week of encouraging speculation about several names with 'development' credentials, Narendra Modi chose as the next Uttar Pradesh chief minister a 44-year-old man who wears saffron clothes and Ray Ban glasses and frequently makes attention-getting statements.
Yogi Adityanath is fondly called a firebrand leader by those of right-wing persuasion and a Hindutva fanatic by critics on the left. As the Mahant of Gorakhnath Math, he has some heft in eastern Uttar Pradesh and considerable support among the 312 BJP MLAs in the state.
While he will represent the hard right at the apex of the BJP government in UP, he will be leavened with two softies who will be deputies to him, Keshav Maurya, the party chief for UP, and Dinesh Sharma, a doctor and mayor of Lucknow.
The swearing-in ceremony will take place on Sunday.
Before arriving at Yogi Adityanath’s name for chief minister, the BJP high command had put it about that it was considering several names: Rajnath Singh, Keshav Maurya, Dinesh Sharma and Manoj Sinha. The last-named helped the feint along by visiting the Kaal Bhairav temple and Sankat Mochan temples in Varanasi on Saturday and mouthing coy quotes about the conquest of desire, both of which served to whet the media appetite.
When it was finally declared, pundits scurried to make meaning of it, trying to square up the development-centred Brand Modi and the Hindutva-orientied Brand Yogi. One analyst said this was a signal that the high command has read its electoral mandate as the green signal to go the whole hog with its saffron agenda, no apologies thank you. "Had the party been restricted to 200 or so seats, it would certainly have gone for a moderate choice," said the political analyst.
While the victory in UP was unquestionably a Modi conquest, the Yogi did play a key role in effecting a reverse consolidation of the majority vote behind the BJP in an election in which the party’s rivals were busy wooing the minorities. The saffron-clad commissar holds sway over some 65 seats across 10 districts in the east and has been a five-time MP from Gorakhpur, having won his 2014 election by a staggering three lakh votes.
While being a nod to hard Hindutva, Adityanath’s appointment would be key to Narendra Modi’s design of giving a development edge to his UP strategy. Eastern UP, or Purvanchal, is considered to be a backward region of UP, and the PM’s own constituency of Varanasi falls in it. The BJP bagged all the Lok Sabha seats here bar Azamgarh in 2014 and swept it up in the recent state election except stray pockets. So it seems logical that the CM be from Purvanchal.
While popular attention was trained on the Prime Minister during the final days of the recent election campaign, Yogi Adityanath was quite the star campaigner. He addressed as many rallies across the state as Amit Shah and was even sent to Mumbai to mobilise voters for the BJP in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections.
Crucially perhaps, the Mahant of Gorakhnath Peeth is close to the RSS and as the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini worked up some fervor among the youth in his home bastions. His appointment to the chief minister’s chair was whispered about even before the elections, and that must have been the thing the BJP high command’s observers were harking back to when they said at the end of the day, “We always thought he was the leader.”