By Subhro Majumder
Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2017, placing a polarizing figure in charge of one of India’s most important states.
Adiyanath, a stern advocate of Hindutva, took oath of office after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) endorsed the state legislative party’s unanimous choice. He is also a graduate in science from Garhwal University at Srinagar, Uttarakhand.
At 44, the shaved headed saffron-clad sanyasi became the second youngest chief minister of Uttar Pradesh after his predecessor Akhilesh Yadav. The five-time Member of Parliament (MP) from Gorakhpur in eastern UP is unmarried and was previously the head priest of Gorakhnath Temple in Gorakhpur.
Not much is known about Adityanath’s childhood, except that he was born Ajay Singh Bisht on 5 June 1972, in a Rajput family in Panchur, a village in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. At the age of 21, he renounced his family to become a disciple of Avaidyanath, the head priest of Gorakhnath Temple.
His connection with the temple was to prove crucial in later years—members of the Gorakhnath Math or monastery where the temple is situated played an important role in the movement to build a Ram Mandir in place of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
At Gorakhnath Temple, Adityanath became the favourite disciple of his mentor Avaidyanath and followed in the long tradition of the temple churning out members of the state assembly and parliament.
Both Avaidyanath and his predecessor Digvijaynath were elected to the Lok Sabha as member of the Hindu Mahasabha. Later Avaidyanath joined the BJP.
Adityanath cut his teeth in politics managing the election campaign for his mentor, and in the 1998 general elections, formally entered public life when he became the youngest MP from Gorakhpur at the age of 26. He has won all four general elections since then.
“Yogi Adityanath has always used symbolism as a tool in politics and his appointment as the chief minister will witness the use of symbolism to reach out to the people of the state. While he was born in an upper caste family, he has renounced everything and so he will be able to reach out the financially and socially weaker section of people,” said a senior BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh after Adityanath’s victory in the 2017 elections.
As Adityanath rose in politics, he started to enjoy good relations with former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and current Union home minister Rajnath Singh, one of the seniormost BJP leaders from Uttar Pradesh. The head priest of Gorakhnath Temple is also close to members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP.
Adityanath is also the patriarch of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a non-profit organization, which was started in 2002 to promote nationalism, common cause of Hindus, Hindutva and social harmony. Among the many things, Adityanath is also involved in protection of cows, more than two dozen educational institutions and also works to provide health facilities in rural areas.
“Yogi Adityanath has been a controversial politician and Modi was seen as someone who wanted to bring all communities together on development. The prime minister had projected himself as someone who wanted the fruits of development to reach everyone irrespective of caste and religion but the choice of chief minister is directly opposite because Adityanath doesn’t represent development or inclusiveness,” said A.K. Verma, a political science professor at Christ Church College, Kanpur.
Political analysts say that while Modi has emphasised the need for inclusive development and social harmony, the choice of Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh chief minister is the antithesis of such talk.
About the author
Subhro Majumder is a Content Writer who is a sports and technology enthusiast. His other varied interests often sway him into reading about history, politics and international relations.