Yogi Adityanath, a five-time BJP MP from Gorakhpur and a controversial Hindutva hardliner, was on Saturday named the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The news comes after days of intense speculation about who would get the top job in the state after the BJP swept the Assembly elections.
With Adityanath all set to take charge of India’s most politically significant state, here’s a look at his life and career.
Born Ajay Singh Bisht, Adityanath has a BSc degree from HNB Garhwal University in Srinagar, Uttarakhand.
In 1998, at the age of 26, he was elected to the 12th Lok Sabha from Gorakhpur and became its youngest member. From here began his often controversial political career, which has seen him become MP five times.
Adityanath, who has been one of the star campaigners for the BJP in the run-up to this Assembly election, has developed a reputation for being controversy's favourite child with his incendiary remarks and actions.
In February 2017, Adityanath declared that the alleged exodus of Hindus from Kairana and ‘love jihad’ were important issues for the party.
The BJP, he said, will not let Western Uttar Pradesh turn into “another Kashmir” – a reference to the forced migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the 1990s.
The Hindutva mascot has never been one to shy away from making controversial remarks about Islam.
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 the Surya Namaskar, he has been at the heart of several controversies.
Adityanath also said that the hurdles in the path of construction of a grand Ram temple will be gradually removed and the exercise will soon start in Ayodhya.
Pakistan too has been the target of his scathing jibes. On 3 January 2016, a day after the terror attack on the IAF base in Pathankot, Adityanath remarked, “The Pathankot attack has once again proved that Satan could change for the better but Pakistan cannot.”
Strained Relations With the BJP
Adityanath has had a sometimes strained relationship with the BJP for more than a decade and has rebelled against his party on several occasions. But since 2012, the firebrand leader has worked closely with BJP President Amit Shah.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), which he set up, functions as a vigilante social outfit in the state and is particularly effective in the eastern districts of Deoria, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar and Siddharthnagar.
In September 2014, Adityanath was appointed as the head priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt following the death of his spiritual ‘father’ Mahant Avaidyanath.
Run-Ins with the Law
The incoming UP CM was arrested in the 2007 Gorakhpur riots. In the riots, a Hindu boy was killed after a mob opened fire on a Muslim procession. After this, Adityanath had allegedly vowed to deliver ‘justice’ for Hindus and held a ‘shraddhanjali sabha’ (homage meeting) as well as a torchlight procession.