NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday decided to name Yogi Adityanath, a fire-breathing cleric from Gorakhpur, as the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
A strong votary of the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, Mr Adityanath ran BJP’s Hindutva campaign in eastern UP in the just concluded assembly polls. He is known for his pronounced anti-Muslim speeches.
Mr Adityanath will be sworn in on Sunday at a ceremony at Kanshiram Smriti Upvan at 2.15pm where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah will be present.
Senior leader Venkaiah Naidu sought to tone down the abrasive legacy of the campaign, saying: “Mandate is for development, mandate is against corruption, against black money”.
With the hardline cleric by his side, Mr Naidu said: “This mandate is against caste politics, religious politics and vote bank politics”. He claimed that all communities had overwhelmingly voted for the BJP.
AFP adds: Television footage showed BJP workers garlanding and feeding sweets to the Hindu hardliner who was draped in his iconic saffron-coloured robe.
A five-time MP from the BJP, Mr Adityanath has stirred controversies over his polarising and inflammatory speeches against Muslims — who form nearly 20 per cent of the state’s population.
Most recently, he lauded US President Trump’s travel ban that aimed to halt immigrants from a handful of Muslim-majority countries from entering America, saying India needed similar action to check terrorism.
He has often fanned flames over religious conversions, inter-religion marriages and has reportedly been arrested and charged with several crimes in the past, including rioting, attempt to murder and trespassing on burial places.
The rise of the Hindu priest-turned-politician in Uttar Pradesh, a state prone to sectarian strife, surprised many after Mr Modi made his development agenda the focus of his campaign in the region, which is traditionally fractured along caste and religious lines.
Observers questioned whether Mr Adityanath would continue pushing his Hindutva ideology as chief minister.
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2017