How Yogi made Gorakhpur an impregnable saffron fort
It has been a tremendous political journey for Aditya Nath ever since his guru Mahant Avaidyanath decided to bid adieu to active politics and appointed him his successor.lucknow Updated: Apr 06, 2017 19:49 IST
Way back in 1998, Aditya Nath Yogi became a member of parliament by winning the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat on a BJP ticket. He was only 26 then.
Nineteen years on, he is the chief minister of the country’s most populous state.
It has been a tremendous political journey for Aditya Nath ever since his guru Mahant Avaidyanath decided to bid adieu to active politics and appointed him his successor.
Aditya Nath tested political waters by contesting the 1998 Lok Sabha election. He defeated Samajwadi Party candidate Jamuna Nishad, who enjoyed considerable influence over backward community, by a margin of 62,007 votes.
He faced a tough contest from Nishad in the 1999 Lok Sabha election but managed to defeat him by a margin of 7,339 votes. The narrow victory margin rattled Aditya Nath and he changed his political strategy to expand his support base.
In 2004 Lok Sabha election, it appeared Nishad would pose a tough challenge to Aditya Nath but he lost the election by a margin of 1,42,013 votes. Aditya Nath again won the 2009 Lok Sabha election defeating his nearest rival Vinay Shankar Tiwari of BSP by 2,20,260 votes.
He won the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat for the fifth consecutive term in 2014 defeating his nearest rival Rajmati Nishad of SP by 1,42,309 votes. The message went to the rival parties that Aditya Nath is invincible and he has converted Gorakhpur into an impregnable fort.
But how a young mahant, considered to be a light weight in the state politics, emerged as a towering star? During the 2007 assembly election, he openly rebelled against the BJP leadership and threatened to field his candidates on assembly seats in Gorakhpur-Basti divisions.
The BJP leadership threatened strict action against him but Aditya Nath refused to budge. Later, the party relented and gave tickets to his supporters. Aditya Nath proved his mettle by sending maximum number of MLAs from his area while the BJP faced rout in other regions.
In 2009 Lok Sabha election, the resurgent SP and Congress grabbed maximum seats handing worst defeat to the saffron brigade. The BJP lost in its strongholds of Faizabad, Varanasi, Bareilly and Agra but Aditya Nath held his fort. Again in 2012 assembly election, when the SP swept the polls, maximum number of BJP MLAs won from east UP.
Talking to HT, political analyst Rajesh Singh said though the mahants of Gorakhnath Temple Trust, Digvijay Nath and Avaidyanath, were active in politics but Aditya Nath established himself as a people’s mahant.
“Earlier, the mahants used to attend programmes organised by top luminaries of the area but Aditya Nath broke the tradition and started attending events organised by common people, dalits and backwards. Be it marriage ceremony, other festivities or last rites, Aditya Nath was there rubbing shoulders with the have-nots,” he said.
“The visits of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Dalit households is often highlighted by the media but Aditya Nath used to organise ‘shahbhoj’ (community feast) with the dalits and backwards even a decade ago,” Singh said.
He worked hard to bring the marginalised Mushahar and Vantongiya communities into the mainstream. He created a constituency among the dalits and backwards though the BSP and the SP have a strong presence in east UP.
According to Singh, Aditya Nath showed political acumen by launching the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) in 2002. “The youths who were earlier associated with gangster-turned-politician Hari Shankar Tiwari and Virendra Pratap Shahi started joining HYV. Soon he had his own network in rural areas of the district and a youth brigade to take forward his agenda,” he said.
“The BJP leadership also used his network for election campaigns. The HYV also launched an anti-conversion campaign in backward areas to mobilise dalits in support of Aditya Nath,” Singh added.
Dwarka Tiwari an aide of Adityanath said, “Since 5 am till midnight he is busy meeting the people of his constituency and disposing of their grievances. He leads a simple life and the door of the mutt is open for all, be it Hindus or Muslims.”
Chandra Bhusan Ankur, a faculty at Gorakhpur University, said for the people outside Gorakhpur region, Aditya Nath was a rabble-rouser and a firebrand leader taking forward the Hindutva agenda, but for the people of the region he was an educationist and a social worker too.
“He has opened a chain of schools and colleges in backward areas of the district. A well-equipped modern hospital has been constructed by Aditya Nath where patient get medical treatment at nominal charges,” he said.
“Gorakhpur region is known for muscle power. To counter it, Aditya Nath established himself as a ‘dabang’ saint who delivered fiery speeches and challenged the might of the mafiosi active in the region. For people, he is a Hindutva poster boy as well as ‘vikas purush’ (one working for development). Several projects have been launched in the region on his initiative. He is also active on the social media communicating with young voters,” he said.
Manoj, a member of Jan Sanskriti Manch, said Aditya Nath got the benefit of the influence of Gorakhnath temple over the people in the region.
“Communal polarisation played an important role in his rise and establishing hegemony in the area. His vote bank increased as he became the flag-bearer of Hindutva and got support from rightist organisations like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Hindu saints active in Ram Janmbhoomi movement supported him after he raised demand for construction of the temple in Ayodhya,” he said.
The Association for Democratic Reform (ADR) mentions in its report that around half-a-dozen criminal cases have been registered against Aditya Nath which include criminal intimidation, rioting, attempt to murder, breach of peace, trespassing, promoting enmity between various groups and endangering the life or personal property. Aditya Nath, however, has claimed that the cases were a political conspiracy by the SP and BSP governments.
In the affidavit submitted during the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Aditya Nath has mentioned that he owns a revolver and a rifle. He has three vehicles – a Tata Safari, an Innova Saloon and a Fortuner.