Once a BSc Maths graduate and then a Sanyasi, the journey of Yogi Adityanath has been a remarkable one as he assumes office of the Chief Minister of India’s largest State of Uttar Pradesh.
Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister-designate of Uttar Pradesh, was born in the hills to Rajput parents on June 5, 1972. Little is known of his pre-Yogi days, except that he got a BSc degree in maths and renounced his family at the age of 21 to become a disciple of Mahant Avaidyanath, then the head priest of Gorakhnath Math.
Later he was trained as a sanyasi, protecting cows, learning Hindu texts, and emerging, in less than five years since he was co-opted, as his Guru’s most beloved disciple. As the successor of Guru Gorakhnath temple, he also ran schools and colleges and managed a hospital.
Yogi’s tryst with politics began in 1996, when he was named in-charge of managing the election campaign for Mahant Avaidyanath. In 1998, when Avaidyanath retired from active politics, he declared Yogi as his heir apparent, and also the nominee for the next Lok Sabha polls.
In 1998, when he was just 26, Yogi Adityanath became the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha, going on to win successive terms in 1999, 2004, 2009 and in 2014. Yogi is not just the popular choice among BJP’s 325 legislators, but also commands a giant following in eastern UP.
Though he remained the torchbearer of the Hindu cause, Yogi also played the ‘Vrihad Hindu’ card attempting, consciously, to widen his popularity base to the nearly disenfranchised Dalit community.
His Hindu hardliner image was strengthened after the ‘Pachrukhiya’ incident in Maharjganj district. On February 10, 1999, when Samajwadi Party member Talat Aziz was delivering a speech as a part of SP’s ‘jail bharo andolan’, some miscreants opened fire on her. Rumours spread that the fire was opened following Yogi’s directions.
It was then that people began chanting slogans of ‘Gorakhpur mein rehna hai to Yogi Yogi kehna hai’.
In 2002, he set up Hindu Yuva Vahini, a socio-cultural outfit, but whose volunteers were known to use strong-arm tactics in riots, cow-protection drives and in their attempts to curtail ‘love jihad’. In 2005, Yogi led a purification drive Ghar Wapasi, under which many ‘returned’ to Hinduism. Yogi landed in jail for his acts.
He faces charges ranging from attempt to murder to defiling places of worship, rioting with deadly weapons and criminal intimidation. In recent years, Yogi has made little attempt to couch his ambitions.
Now, he is on the course to take charge as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, largest state in the country.