In the aftermath of much anticipated Uttar Pradesh chief ministerial candidate, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) firebrand Lok Sabha member from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath has taken oath as the new CM of the state. In the run for the CM post of the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, various names including Junior telecom minister Manoj Sinha, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, party’s state president Keshav Prasad Maurya were doing the rounds as the 21st chief minister of the state. However, the ongoing waves hints that Adityanath has taken a lead in the race of CM. So, who is Yogi Adityanath? What made him the ideal choice for the CM post? Let’s have a look at his journey so far:
Born on June 5, 1972, Mahanth Yogi Adityanath is a fifth time Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur constituency in UP. He is a BJP Member of Parliament who has represented Gorakhpur in the Lok Sabha since 1998. Adityanath is the Mahant (head priest) of the Gorakhnath Mutt, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, following the death of his spiritual father Mahant Avaidyanath in September 2014. Adityanath is also the founder of the ‘Hindu Yuva Vahini’, a social, cultural and nationalist group of youth that aims to provide rightist Hindu platform.
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Adityanath was one of the youngest members of the 12th Lok Sabha at 26. He has been elected as an MP from Gorakhpur to the Lok Sabha in the 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections. He is the successor to former Hindu Mahasabha president Mahant Avaidyanath at the Gorakhnath temple. Adityanath is a B. Sc. graduate from the H.N.B. Garhwal University.
Adityanath is also known for some major controversies and some derogatory remarks on various sensitive issues related to caste and religion. In 2005, Adityanath allegedly led a purification move which involved the conversion of Christians to Hinduism. In one such instance, 1,800 Christians were reportedly converted to Hinduism in the town of Etah in Uttar Pradesh during this time.
In January 2007, an altercation occurred amidst a Hindu group and Muslims during a Muharram procession in Gorakhpur which led to the hospitalisation of a young Hindu, Raj Kumar Agrahari. The District Magistrate later restricted Adityanath to visit the site as it may inflame tensions. He initially agreed, but after Agrahari died, he disobeyed the magistrate and travelled to the site with a group of his followers. Adityanath started a non-violent dharna on the site. However, inflammatory speeches were made and some of his followers set fire to a nearby mazaar (Muslim mausoleum). A curfew was implemented by the local police, but Adityanath broke it and was subsequently jailed under Section 151A, Sections 146, 147, 279, 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
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He was taken into custody for a fortnight, on charges of disturbing peace. His arrest led to further unrest and later several coaches of the Mumbai-Gorakhpur Godan Express were burnt, allegedly by protesting Hindu Yuva Vahini activists. The day after his arrest, the District Magistrate along with the local police chief, were transferred and replaced.
This was widely perceived as a result of “Adityanath’s clout’ with the Uttar Pradesh government of Mulayam Singh Yadav. The tensions soon escalated to riots across Gorakhpur leading to the burning of several mosques, homes, buses and trains. After his release, Adityanath protested his jailing in the Parliament.
During an intolerance debate in the media, Adityanath had also compared Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to a Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed. Speaking to the media he said, “Shah Rukh Khan should remember that majority population of the country made him the star, and if they boycot his films, he will also have to wander on streets. It is unfortunate SRK is speaking the same language that of Hafiz Saeed.”