Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand BJP leader known for his radical views on Muslims, was named on Saturday as the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, a surprise choice by the BJP to lead the country’s most populous state.
The party also named two deputy chief ministers, state BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya and Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma, a first in the state.
Yogi and his council of ministers will be sworn in on Sunday, a week after the BJP grabbed power in the state with a brute majority, raising prospects of the party’s re-election in the general elections in 2019.
Opposition parties criticised the selection of the Hindu hardliner, a 44-year-old five-time law-maker who is also the head of the Gorakhnath temple, a centuries old shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Political analysts said the massive mandate might have helped the party overcome caste concerns and carry forward its agenda of Hindutva and development.
Adityanath is a strong votary of constructing a Ram temple in Ayodhya and is also known for his provocative statements on contentious issues such as ‘love jihad’, a term used Hindu right-wing outfits to describe alleged luring of Hindu girls for conversion to Islam.
Adityanath, however, said he will follow Modi’s path of inclusive development, “Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas” (with all and development of all).
“I am confident that the state will march on the path of development,” he said in his first media interaction after being named for the top job.
Adityanath and his two deputies met governor Ram Naik to formally stake claim to form the government.
श्री योगी आदित्यनाथ जी को उत्तर प्रदेश का मुख्यमंत्री चुने जाने पर— BJP Uttar Pradesh (@BJP4UP) March 18, 2017
हार्दिक बधाई। आपके नेतृत्व में यूपी विकास के नये आयाम स्थापित करेगा pic.twitter.com/cIIaNC8F7N
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief Amit Shah and other BJP leaders are expected to attend the swearing in ceremony at Lucknow’s Smriti Upvan on Sunday afternoon.
“The mandate that BJP got in UP is an indication that caste-focused politics in the state would now pave way for politics of development,” said Union minister Venkaiah Naidu who, along with BJP national general secretary Bhupendra Yadav, were deputed as party observers for picking a CM.
After his election, Adityanath sought two deputies to assist him, a suggestion formally conveyed Amit Shah, who okayed it.
Adityanath’s name was announced hours after he was summoned to Delhi by the party’s leadership.
Born Ajay Mohan Bisht, Adityanath is a science graduate from Garhwal University and became MP for the first time at the age of 26.
Known for his polarising, hard-hitting speeches, Adityanath has considerable influence in eastern Uttar Pradesh but was also used by the party as a star campiagner in western UP for the recently-held elections .
Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted that Adityanath’s appointment was a “harbinger to greater polarisation”.
Md Salim, politburo member of CPI (M) said, “In the UP polls, the BJP systematically played communal card. Selection of Yogi Adityanath is the culmination of Modi-Amit Shah brand of politics.”