The announcement is being seen as a clear reiteration of the BJP’s commitment to Hindutva. The firebrand five-time Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath has a huge following in the country’s most populous state, cutting across castes. He is a Rajput and originally hails from Garhwal in Uttarakhand. However, his emergence on the state scene has largely been because of his heading the Gorakhnath temple Mutt.
The RSS, which at one point was rooting for someone more seasoned with wider acceptability and administrative acumen, agreed to Modi’s proposal, clearing the decks for Adityanath’s appointment. The new CM will have two deputies—state BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, an OBC, and Dinesh Sharma, a Brahmin, currently Mayor of Lucknow and vice president of the party. The new UP team is light on ministerial experience and thus would bank heavily on advice from New Delhi, as well as from senior leaders to run government. Adityanath is perceived to be the symbol of Hindutva forces and many of his rivals accuse him of being a leader with a medieval outlook.
His appointment is likely to be well received by the vast number of the electorate that supported the BJP in the recently concluded Assembly polls. He is expected to help the party fulfil its promise of construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. However, the Yogi will need to use all the resources at his command to carry various sections of people. After Uma Bharti, who had led the BJP to a spectacular victory in Madhya Pradesh in 2003 and was elected Chief Minister, Adityanath is only the second religious leader to be elevated to the coveted post.
Adityanath’s appointment will necessitate a byelection in Gorakhpur, which could perhaps see the coming together of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress on the same platform to take on the BJP by fielding a common candidate. After Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh, Biren Singh in Manipur and Trivendra Singh Rawat in Uttarakhand, Yogi Adityanath will be the fourth Rajput Chief Minister of a BJP ruled state. Before his appointment, there was intense speculation regarding the post going to an OBC, given that OBCs had voted for the BJP in a big way in the Assembly elections.
The choice of the CM was delayed because of hectic parleys within the Sangh Parivar, where, at one stage, a section of the RSS wanted to install Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to the august office. The move received a setback when Modi hand-picked Trivendra Singh Rawat to assume the charge as the head of government in adjoining Uttarakhand. It was believed that the BJP would not have two Rajputs in adjoining states and it would be politically risky to get someone from the upper castes to be at the helm of affairs. However, pressure from the newly elected MLAs made them reconsider the decision and declare Adityanath as the CM designate.
On his part, Rajnath Singh had publicly announced that he was comfortable to be in Delhi, as he had earlier discharged a stint at Lucknow. Nevertheless, a section in the RSS was of the view that securing a seasoned and accomplished person like Rajnath Singh to lead UP would help in consolidating the party’s position.
According to sources, a recommendation to appoint Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to head the government was turned down by the Prime Minister, though several of his admirers in political circles considered this possible move to be a “masterstroke” internationally. It would have also silenced his critics who have spared no effort to project the PM as anti Muslim. But Modi decided to go by the wishes of the MLAs.
The Sangh and the BJP leadership are well aware that the massive mandate in UP has raised the expectations of people and no matter what, it had to deliver on all pre-poll pledges. The outcome of the Assembly elections, following the huge win for the party in the 2014 Parliamentary elections, would also provide a boost to the relentless demand for the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The overwhelming support the party has received in the state in two successive elections thus would boomerang if in the event the BJP is unable to fulfil the promise of Ram Temple. Thus, it is only a matter of time when the BJP unveils its plans for finding an amicable solution to the Ayodhya issue and furnishes a concrete blueprint for the construction of the temple.