Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand BJP leader and a five-time MP from Gorakhpur, was named on Saturday as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, exacly a week after the party took control of the state with a brute majority.
HT traces his life and career as one of the most polarising political figures in India.
The beginning of political innings: It was in the year 1998 when Yogi Adityanath entered the political arena after leaving his ancestral home at Pancher village in Pauri Garhwal where he was born on June 5, 1972. He was born Ajay Mohan Bisht but later changed his name after his indoctrination into the Nath sect.
The year saw former BJP MP Mahant Avidyanath, a key leader of 90’s Ram Temple movement, passing his baton to Yogi Adityanath who emerged as a controversial Hindu leader known for hate speeches.
A B.Sc graduate (1993) from Garhwal University in Uttrakhand, Yogi made his Parliament debut after winning the election in 1998 from Gorakhpur. He continued to win the seat for five times with large margins, except in 2004 when the Samajwadi Party’s Jamuna Nishad gave him tough fight. He won by just 5,000 votes.
Chief priest of Gorakhnath temple: Adityanath received deeksha (teachings) of the Nath sect at the Gorakhnath temple in February, 1994. As per the sect’s traditions, his ears were pierced amid rituals associated with the temple. He addressed Mahant Avidyanath, his maternal uncle, as Guruji. Yogi Adityanath took over as chief priest of Gorakhnath temple after Mahant Avidyanath passed away in 2014.
Major controversies/criminal cases: Adityanath’s radical pro-Hindutva image came to the fore for the first in February 1999, when he allegedly tried to capture a graveyard land by planting a peepal tree at Panch Rukhiya village in Maharajganj district. A case under several sections was registered against him in the Kotwali police station.
In 2007, just before the assembly elections, Adityanath had to spend 15 days in jail when he was booked for inciting riots in Gorakhpur and adjoining areas which saw the killing of a Muslim youth. Riots broke out after a provocative speech by Adityanath following the killing of a Hindu youth in January. He was booked again by police. He is still facing trial in the two cases.
Strained relations with BJP:In 2007, upset with the BJP for not helping him during a crisis when he was jailed for communal riots, Adityanath fielded candidates from his nationalist outfit, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, against party nominees. The same year, he showed his clout when he fielded and ensured a victory for Radha Mohan Das Aggarwal on a Hindu Mahasabha ticket. Adityanath was ignored by the central leadership as he was not inducted in the Modi ministry despite being a law-maker for five times.
Saints demand Yogi as CM candidate: Even as the BJP constantly ignored growing demands to project Yogi Adityanath as the party’s CM candidate, a meeting of saints and seers from Ayodhya and other places, held at the Gorakhnath temple in 2016, pitched Yogi as the CM face and pointed out that decks for construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya could only be cleared when Yogi becomes the chief minister.
Polarising figure in 2017 polls: Adityanath helped BJP reap the benefits of a highly polarised Uttar Pradesh. He had first raked up the issue of alleged discrimination in power supply during Hindu and Muslim festivals and also in allocation of land for kabristan and shamshan, which was later highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had also made highly controversial comments on issues such as love jihad, cow slaughter and forcible conversion.
Handled rebellion: A faction of Adityanath’s HYV revolted when its members were denied tickets by BJP in the just concluded assembly elections. They emerged as big trouble for BJP by announcing to contest election against saffron party candidates in alliance with Shiv Sena. The revolt was immediately crushed by Yogi who sacked rebel leaders. Later, some rebels took back their nominations on his initiative.