A Blazing Alteration – UP’s New Chief Minister
“A man’s worth is no greater than his ambition” – Marcus Aurelius
In recent times, India’s considerably opinionated media has had only one name on its lips – Yogi Adityanath. The recently appointed Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has taken the nation by storm, with his unflinching ideals, and flamboyant personality creating havoc.
Born Ajay Singh Bisht in Panchur, Uttarakhand, the Yogi completed his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Garhwal University, Uttarakhand. In the 1990s, Yogi Adityanath joined the Ayodhya Ram Temple Movement, where he met Mahant Avaidyanath, the chief priest of Gorakhnath Math, and proceeded to become his disciple. Gorakhnath Math is a temple of the Nath monastic group, established in the city of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
The Math has played an active role in the history, and politics of India since the early 20th century, when it joined various organizations such as the Congress, the Hindu Mahasabha, and so on. When Ajay Singh became a disciple of the Gorakhnath Math, he was given the name Yogi Adityanath, and over time, he was anointed as the successor to the then Mahant. When Mahant Avaidyanath died in September 2014, Yogi Adityanath was given the title of ‘Mahant’ amid traditional rituals conducted at the Gorakhnath Temple.
In 1998, Yogi Adityanath contested in the election, and was elected to the Lok Sabha. He was the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha at the age of 26. Following his first electoral win, Adityanath started his own youth wing Hindu Yuva Vahini which has been known for its activities in the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh and was instrumental to Adityanath’s meteoric rise to power. He has been elected to the Parliament for five consecutive terms. In the past, Adityanath has had strained relations with the BJP for over a decade. His main qualm with the BJP was that, according to him, they had diluted the Hindutva ideology to a great extent.
Adityanath has basked in the RSS and the BJP’s good graces, owing to the fact that he has established a base of power in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, with the support of the Gorakhnath Math and the Hindu Yuva Vahini. Whenever he felt like his voice was not being heard, he revolted by fielding candidates against the BJP. For instance, he fielded Radha Mohan Das Agarwal on a Hindu Mahasabha ticket, who proceeded to defeat the incumbent BJP Cabinet Minister by a wide margin. In this manner, Adityanath has often proved himself, putting up an indomitable front against his opponents. For this very reason, he was the star campaigner for the BJP in the 2017 Assembly Elections in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP won by a landslide, thus earning Adityanath the post of Chief Minister.
Opinions on Yogi Adityanath are varied, some feel he courts communalism and does not consider the fact that India is a secular state, while others believe his actions are justified, and necessary to maintain order within the state. In reality, no judgment can be passed on his actions since he has just come into power. Any real conclusion can only be derived from his activities upon the culmination of his cabinet’s mandate to rule, five years hence.
Since the time he has taken office, he has championed many problems plaguing UP, an example of which is the creation of anti-Romeo squads to prevent harassment of women. Unfortunately, while these squads have been able to curb the harassment of women in the state, there has been a rise in the policing and control of young couples, instead of cracking down on those who stalk and molest women. There are fears of increased vigilantism infringing on the populace’s freedom and their right to choose.
Yogi Adityanath has been described by many as ‘firebrand’, due to the flaring enthusiasm with which he works, and the unbridled manner in which he expresses himself. He has been the subject of multiple controversies, having been accused of spreading communal disharmony and radicalizing Hinduism. In 2007, a dispute occurred among a Hindu group and a Muharram procession in Gorakhpur, which led to the hospitalization of a Hindu, Raj Kumar Agrahari. The Magistrate made it clear that Adityanath should not visit the site lest it inflame tensions. Although Yogi initially agreed, he disobeyed the Magistrate and traveled to the site when he heard that Agrahari had succumbed to his injuries. To further exacerbate the situation, he began a protest on the site, and started making inflammatory speeches against Muslims. He was soon arrested for disturbing the peace, which led to further unrest, and caused riots to break out in Gorakhpur.
A move which was very well-received was the ban imposed on tobacco, pan and gutka in government offices. He also made every official and bureaucrat pledge 100 hours every year to the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’. Besides this, he also announced a massive loan waiver of Rs 36,359 crores for more than 86 lakh farmers in UP. This is the largest waiver ever announced by any state. Adityanath also made sure that all the illegal slaughterhouses in UP were closed down permanently. As an added measure, he formed ‘gau rakshaks’, who worked to prevent the slaughter of cows. This move drew widespread criticism with reports of these ‘gau rakshaks’ disappointingly resorting to extreme violence to defend cows.
Within the first few weeks that Yogi Adityanath was appointed, there were multiple posts on social media complaining about the uncertainty of someone such as Adityanath being handed the keys to the metaphorical kingdom. Hoping for a change from the previous government, the people of Uttar Pradesh voted for a government that was along the lines of Narendra Modi’s national rule, but they did not anticipate that Yogi Adityanath would be made the chief minister. All that can be taken away from the current situation is that Yogi Adityanath represents a change in Uttar Pradesh; whether this abrupt change is good or not is a matter of personal opinion.