The news of Yogi Adityanath becoming Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister has caused predictable reactions from the media, opposition parties and a section of educated Indians. As at it happens often, what we read and what we see is a result of deliberate propaganda and hype that feeds on itself. What we hear are reactions to reactions (echo-chamber) of 'controversial statements' without any reference to the context or provocation. In this echo-chamber the noise shuts eyes to facts about work done. So here is an attempt to look at the man who elevation as a Chief Minister has sent shock waves in India's rarified English world.
Mahant Yogi Adityanath, a yuva yogi, is now the Chief Minister of the largest state of world's largest democracy. Yogi Aditynath first won Loksabha seat when he was just 26 -the youngest person to do so - and has continued to win it for five successive terms without any dynastic or political patronage.
The above fact alone makes him a very special person in India's democracy which was dominated by a dynasty and nepotism until just three years back. A small fringe of media and so called intellectuals are still in thrall of the dynasty, but 'Confident Indians' have been asserting themselves in a remarkable fashion through the ballot. Therefore, we need to take note of Yogi Adityanath’s background which is neither of an elite nor that of a businessman.
Ajay Singh Bisht (Yogij's name from his former ashrama) was born on 5th June 1972 in Panchur, District, Pauri Garhwal (Uttarakhand). His father's name is Mahant Avaidyanathji Maharaj. He did his B.Sc.(Mathematics) from H.N.B. Garhwal University, Srinagar, Uttarakhand. He became a sanyasi at the age of 22 and was given a name as 'Adityanath'. Yogi Adityanath is the Main Mahanth of holy Temple of Gorakhnath. The Temple was founded several centuries ago by great saint Baba Gorakh Nath. Millions of followers of Nath sampradaya visit the temple every year. People around the globe visit the temple. Yogi Adityanath was made Peethadheshwar of Gorakhnath Temple amid traditional rituals of the Nath sampradaya on 14th Sept 2014.
Those who mistakenly equate Hinduism only with casteism and Brahmin hegemony should note that Yogi, who became Peethadheswar (Chief Priest), was born in a Rajput (non-brahmin) family. Like many Yogis of India, he is opposed to Hindu caste system and favors inter-caste marriages. He works for upliftment of every community with special attention on Dalits. He worked to eradicate casteism and untouchability through community meals in villages. For this reason, he popular among Dalits and other backward classes.
There are anecdotes about how Yogi Adityanath hasn't discriminated against Muslims. To quote from one them
"I live near Gorakhnath temple & here most of my friends are Muslims. Even I spend my most of the day here in Muslim area, now please read the following facts:
1. Every year there is one month long fair (Numaish) known as “khichadi ka mela” ,held within the boundaries of Gorakhnath Mandir, about 95% of shops are from Muslim community. But no one among them felt any type of discrimination done with them. In year 2007 because of communal clashes curfew was imposed by district administration. During that crucial time Adityanath baba ensured all shopkeepers (more than 100 Muslims having temporary shops within the premises of Gorakhnath temple) of “khichadi ka mela” that you all are safe here and whatever you need you can take from “Bhandara (store of Gorakhnath temple).
So he is a nice person and treats everyone in his constituency equally, it doesn’t matter for him that a person asking for help is Hindu or Muslim.
Those who don’t believe my words may ask me phone numbers or addresses of the persons related to above incidents."
The above may not go well with his image build up by our mainstream media. Most of the 'news' is dominated by his 'controversial statements' and playing up his 'hardliner Hindutva' image. But facts point to a Yogi who has been doing social work without discrimination. Yogi Adityanath himself has said that ' Hindutva is a guarantee of development and security "
Yogi Adityanath’s development efforts:
The list of his development efforts includes electrification of villages using MP's funds and through the rural electrification scheme, establishing schools for education of women, obtaining approvals projects like 4 laning of river bridge and construction of new bridges, establishing food park and textile park in GIDA, drinking water plants, expansion of medical college, electrification and doubling of Gorakhpur-Lucknow railway line etc.
Adityanath attends to problems brought by people on daily basis by meeting them and with help of his assistants to follow up with authorities.
If Yogi Adityanath has won five consecutive terms, whether there was wave or not, it must be due to his work for the people. Without any patronage of dynasty or a big organization it is impossible to win election after election for two decades by religious polarization -people can see through such tactics.
His record in parliament also shows that Yogi is not just a man of religion and rituals. He participated in debates on issues like: spread of encephalitis in eastern UP, CBI enquiry into links between mafia and politicians, shutting down illegal slaughter houses, Imposition of Income tax on undisclosed foreign income assets bill, pollution of rivers, uniform civil code etc.
His questions in parliament cover subjects like promotion of sports, foreign broadcasting in border areas, farmer debts, prescription of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, audit of toilets, Aadhar card for banking, electronic manufacturing clusters, terrorist training to youth, inland water ways, immunization, encroachment on Railway land, uniform minimum wages, corruption in MCI, pending court cases etc. (source )
When it comes to public policy he is votary of Uniform Civil Code, preserving indigenous knowledge and culture, opposition to religious conversions and love jihad.
Yogi Adityanath has some criminal cases in courts -no wonder given the causes he takes up and given that SP and BSP have been ruling UP for over a decade. Like his 'controversial statements' media will surely bring up them again and again.
A man of masses, but very much his own man
What matters to people however is whether Yogi Adityanath will deliver development -the main plank of Modi Government’s and the BJP's agenda. UP, which has been at the receiving end of decades of misrule that exploited rather than bridge UP's caste and class divisions, needs a leader and administrator who can deliver development without any discrimination.
Will Adityanath be such a leader and administrator? His work among people over two decades gives us a hope that he will be able to build coalitions of people with diverse backgrounds and interests both inside outside his party and in the government. His interests in wide areas of development and services to people as seen above also support our hope.
He lacks administrative experience but in Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma he has able deputies. It is a good sign that he asked for deputy chief ministers to handle responsibilities of a large state like UP. (Read )
Unlike the rootless educated people (which is other name for being westernized) who dominate our public discourse, Adityanath seems to have better connect with people because he shares with them his roots in our civilization of millennia (not limited to British or Mughal India). Ordinary people don't have any problem with 'saffron'. Let us hope that he makes this work for UP.
Yogi Adityanath is reported to have had differences with BJP and even RSS. Whether it is true or not, he is a man of masses but he is his own man. He is unencumbered by family ties or western economic and political ideological baggage of the Left or the Right. He is perceptive, intelligent, coherent, and articulate (watch him on youtube). He is ambitious. He is a leader. He is a man who can't be boxed. He is chosen by another man who can't be boxed either -Prime Minister Modi.
Yogi Adityanath is a Chief Minister to be watched. Let's hope that he lifts Uttar Pradesh out of poverty and strife.