Why Yogi Adityanath casts a longer shadow as mahant than UP chief minister
The yogi completes one month in the chief minister’s office on Wednesday. However, despite his political success, it’s Adityanath the mahant who continues to overshadow Adityanath the chief minister as far as his followers are concerned.lucknow Updated: Apr 19, 2017 14:49 IST
When Union power minister Piyush Goyal arrived at Lucknow on April 14 for a meeting with chief minister Yogi Adityanath, he was so overwhelmed by the sight of the mahant that he lowered his head and bent 90 degrees from the waist.
Adityanath greeted him with his signature smile on his face, both hands folded in a pranam.
Raghuraj Pratap Singh, former minister in Samajwadi Party government, did the same on Tuesday. The erstwhile muscleman, whose writ runs large at Kunda in Pratapgarh, would not even look into the mahant’s eyes while greeting him.
This is nothing unusual for Adityanath, who finds everybody from BJP national president Amit Shah to opposition leaders greeting him with reverence from time to time. His followers, on the other hand, lie on the floor in complete prostration.
Though the body language may seem similar to that of the AIADMK cadre, who used to lie flat on the floor to greet late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, the sentiment behind the act is markedly different. While sycophancy was presumably the factor that generated such reverence for Amma in the southern state, it is a matter of spirituality and religious faith in this case.
The yogi completes one month in the chief minister’s office on Wednesday. However, despite his political success, it’s Adityanath the mahant who continues to overshadow Adityanath the chief minister as far as his followers are concerned.
Adityanath himself responds quicker when addressed as ‘maharaj-ji’ than ‘CM sahab’. “The aura of Gorakhnath peeth has now reached Lucknow and the CM’s office,” says PK Mall, state general secretary of the Hindu Yuva Vahini.
Though Adityanath epitomizes a successful mix of religion and politics, his role of ‘peethadheeshwar’ always meant more for his followers than his status as a parliamentarian. According to Mall, devotees of the Gorakhnath Math worship him as much as they revere the sacred place.
“The chief minister’s chair may be glamorous for other politicians, but not for the yogi. For him, it is the peeth that’s more dominant,” says a follower, attributing Adityanath’s rise in political fortunes to the social welfare schemes he carried out as a religious head.
The Gorakhnath math, which represents the Nath Sampradaya, has been at the centre of religious activities in the region – including the Ram Temple movement.
The reverence shown to Adityanath is completely at odds with his counterparts such as Andhra Pradesh’s Chandrababu Naidu – who prefers to be referred to as a chief executive officer instead of chief minister. And, in an age where sycophancy is frowned upon, images of people prostrating before the Uttar Pradesh chief minister could easily set tongues wagging.
In fact, quite a few eyebrows were raised when firebrand BSP national president Mayawati began encouraging people to touch her feet. Soon after she became the chief minister of a majority government in 2007, one look at her extended feet was enough to send people scurrying towards them.
Other chief ministers known to encourage the unwarranted tradition were Kamlapati Tripathi, HN Bahuguna and ND Tiwari. Even young chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had MLAs lining up at the Vidhan Sabha to touch his feet.
The issue, however, assumes a different hue in Adityanath’s case. In Uttar Pradesh’s Brahmin culture, touching the feet of a spiritual leader is required of everybody – irrespective of caste and age. For them, reverence comes before respect.
It is for this very reason that many in the opposition may muster the guts to oppose Adityanath the chief minister, but not Adityanath the mahant. At best, they will hold their peace.
First Published: Apr 19, 2017 11:30 IST