In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party was hunting for a huge open area for their prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who was drawing huge crowds.
The area they zeroed in, near Maanvela village in Gorakhpur, had a high Muslim population. Much to the surprise of the party leadership, the Muslims themselves came forward and offered their agriculture land for Modi’s rally, who till then carried the Godhra taint.
The reason: Mahant Yogi Adityanath had helped the Muslims of the area get their dues for the land acquired by the Gorakhpur Development Authority.
Now, when the BJP brass rewarded him for the 175 rallies he held across the state, paving the way for the party’s spectacular win in the 2017 elections, eyebrows are being raised.
The doubts are no less amplified by the fact that in him, the state will have its first chief minister dressed in saffron, who is mahant of the much-revered Gorakhnath Peeth and has been at the forefront of the Ram temple movement.
Adityanath is the second chief minister to come from the Gorakhpur region, a neglected area of the state. Late Vir Bahadur Singh was the first chief minister from the region in a Congress dispensation.
Through Adityanath’s selection, the party high command has sent a clear message to the voters about its ambitious plan to pursue their winning formula of Hindutva and development. Simultaneously, the social engineering formula, evolved by the party president Amit Shah, has also been carried forward. Adityanath is a Thakur, while his deputies Keshav Maurya and Dinesh Sharma belong to the OBC and Brahmin community respectively.
Many insiders indicate the party’s plan to prop up another Thakur leader against Rajnath Singh, the only Rajput leader of prominence in the state and country.
Many political experts define Adityanath as the Modi of Uttar Pradesh. The slogans raised today were ‘ Modi, Modi, Yogi, Yogi’.
Political analyst Prof Rajesh Singh said, “ He is hardworking, honest and accessible. His predecessors — Digvijay Nathji and Avaidnathji — never visited a cremation ground, but he attends all functions, including those of birth and death.” Prof Singh, however, cautions that the new chief minister will be able to provide good governance if “he can control his tongue and tone down his belligerence”.
Ironically, the public image of the 44-year-old Yogi is his strength as well as his weakness. He is a man of integrity with no corruption charges against him. But he is also a polarising figure.
He often allays Muslim fears with remarks like, “I am not against Muslims but against their appeasement.” However, this is not enough for him to win the confidence of 19% Muslims, who are not obliged as the Muslims of Maanvela village in Gorakhpur.
None of his public speeches would end without reiteration of his resolve to construct Ram Mandir at the disputed site in Ayodhya and demand strict ban on cow slaughter. His favourite slogan being, ‘Hindutva and Bhautik Vikas’ (Hindutva and physical development).
The challenges before him will be huge and manifold.
He will have to keep the fundamentalist elements in the party in check, win over the Muslims and ensure development of the state.
For now, all are waiting for the first session of the Vidhan Sabha, as it reminds them of the early 1990’s when Jai Sri Ram slogans used to echo in the House.
The slogan was back today when his name was announced..