The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has played the biggest gamble by picking Yogi Adityanath as chief minister of the most populous state. For the fire brand Hindutva leader like Yogi, politics is a means to further the mission of serving for a cause. He comes from the league of saints who treat politics and religion as two faces of the same coin.
His daily routine is also like that of any religious leader. In no way does the condition of the room in which he lives indicate that he has been five-time member of Parliament. After waking up at 3: 30 am, Yogi remains busy with special prayers till 5 am daily. He spends the next hour taking a stroll around the temple premises followed by a self-study session till 8:30 am. After spending an hour in dealing with temple management issues, he takes a light breakfast at 9: 30 am.
He begins meeting public at 10 am and doesn’t leave the spot unless he addressed the issues of the last person who visits him. This follows a visit to the areas in his parliamentary constituency followed by paying obeisance to cows. After another meeting with the temple management, he spends the next two hours in prayers. He takes dinner at 9: 30 pm followed by another self-studying session. He doesn’t sleep for more than four hours. No wonder then that he is popularly known as Yogi Maharaj in Poorvanchal region of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Many times his speeches, laced with hardliner Hindutva messages have sparked controversies. In 2007, after the death of Rajkumar Agrahar, Yogi broke curfew and staged a protest leaving the administration in a tizzy. He was later arrested which was followed by arson and vandalism by his supporters across the city proving the clout that he enjoyed.
Given his stubborn image, Yogi is at times compared to Bal Thackeray, the Shiv Sena founder, but his stature is often considered bigger than the late leader from Maharashtra. So does his coronation as CM mean that BJP is showing how significant Hindu saints are for the party? This, despite 19.6 % of UP’s 20 crore population comprises of Muslims. Will the move win the trust of Muslims for the party?
We cannot dismiss the fact that half of the districts in Uttar Pradesh are communally sensitive and Ram Janmabhoomi is also part of the state. One cannot ignore that ‘Kashmir’ in West UP and ‘terror factory’ of Azamgarh, as referred by Yogi, are also parts of Uttar Pradesh. A nation without Ram is incomplete for Yogi and constructing a Ram Temple in Ayodhya is first on his wish list.
The pro-Hindutva image apart, Yogi believes in taking up causes of the poor. He has been heard saying that no one who doesn’t care about poor will remain happy in life. His supporters would hope that he lives true to this pro-poor image as well.
In his first address to his MLA’s, Yogi invoked BJP’s ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas’ slogan. This might as well be a message for the people of Uttar Pradesh. Can we hope that the new innings that Yogi has just begun would pave way for the welfare of people of Uttar Pradesh? For sure he would know that he is being watched out by millions in his state and beyond.
(Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief of Hindustan. He tweets as @shekharkahin)