A five-term Lok Sabha MP, BJP leader Yogi Adityanath is a fiery Hindutva mascot who has developed a reputation of being controversy's favourite child over a period of time. Named as the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh on Saturday, 44-year-old Adityanath, a priest-turned-politician, is known for his provocative speeches and mass following across the state and never shies away from making controversial remarks, be it about Islam or Pakistan.
Clad in his trademark saffron-coloured robe, Aditayanth, a Gorakhpur MP, has been seeking greater power and is expected to give a push to BJP's Hindutva-wrapped agenda of development with the emergence of a separate powerbase for the party in eastern UP.
Yogi Adityanath chosen as UP BJP legislature party leader pic.twitter.com/FyLX91gQk9— ANI (@ANI_news) March 18, 2017
'Founded the Hindu Yuva Vahini'
Born Ajay Singh, the diminutive shaven headed politician is known for his powerful oratory, though most of his speeches hinge on divisive lines and has been in the forefront in keeping the communal politics alive in the country. He comes from a Rajput family and completed his Bachelor's Degree in Science from Uttarakhand.
Adityanath, who is a strong votary of construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, drove BJP's Hindutva campaign in eastern UP in the just concluded Assembly polls in the politically crucial state where it won three- fourths majority. Adityanath has rebelled against his party on several occasions, but because of the sway he holds over the 'Hindu' voters, the BJP apparently could not ignore his 'leadership qualities.' He had floated Hindu Yuva Vahini, a right-wing outfit, in 2002.
Supporters in Gorakhpur rejoice and burst crackers as the five time MP from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath becomes Uttar Pradesh CM designate pic.twitter.com/uE1dxJ0JRO— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) March 18, 2017
'Centre of several controversies'
Ever since, the HYV has been largely instrumental in his meteoric rise - from a student leader to five-time MP. Right from comparing Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed during the intolerance debate in 2015 to asking people to leave India if they don't practice Surya Namaskar in 2015, the Yogi has been at the centre of several controversies.
Playing the religious card during the pre-poll campaign, the firebrand leader had said that controversial issues like 'love jihad' and 'Kairana Hindu' exodus have always been on his partys agenda. He had also said that the hurdles on the path of construction of a grand Ram temple will be gradually removed and its construction will soon start in Ayodhya.
'A strong powerbase in eastern UP'
Born on June 5 1972, Adityanath was the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha at 26. He has been elected as an MP from Gorakhpur to the Lok Sabha in the 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections. In 2005, Adityanath allegedly led a purification drive which involved the conversion of Christians to Hinduism. In one such instance, 1,800 Christians were reportedly converted to Hinduism in the town of Etah in UP.
With the emergence of a separate powerbase in eastern UP, he has been seeking greater power, causing further conflicts. In December 2006, Adityanath had organised a three-day Virat Hindu Mahasammelan at Gorakhpur, during the same period when the BJP was holding its National Executive Meet in Lucknow.
'Has had conflict with the BJP leadership'
The 2007 elections saw a conflict between Adityanath and the BJP leadership - he wanted more than hundred seats in this region to go to candidates selected by him, but the party leadership would not agree. Subsequently, a compromise agreement was reached, possibly with inputs from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and eight of his candidates were fielded.
In March 2010, Adityanath was one of several BJP MPs who started the defiance to the party whip on the Women's Reservation Bill. Adityanath is the Mahant (head priest) of the Gorakhnath Mutt, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, following the death of his spiritual "father," Mahant Avaidyanath in September 2014.
'A mahant of Gorakhnath Mutt'
Though known more for his rightist Hindu politics, it is to his credit that people in Gorakhpur, especially around the temple, hold him in high esteem irrespective of whichever caste or community they belong to.
Even Muslims around the temple are given protection by the Yogi. He is also the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a social, cultural and nationalist group of youth who seek to provide rightist Hindu platform.
(Feature image source: PTI)