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Yogi Adityanath — ‘curious boy’ who became firebrand leader makes history with 2nd term as UP CM

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In run-up to 2017 polls, Yogi had not even been declared a star campaigner by BJP in first 2 phases of election. But then his name was announced for post of CM.

Lucknow: Yogi Adityanath, born Ajay Mohan Bisht, is a politician with a difference in many ways. From someone who wasn’t even part of the BJP’s star campaigner list in 2017, to becoming the first UP CM in 37 years who looks set for a consecutive term in office, the 49-year-old monk-politician has come a long way.

Born in a lower-middle-class home to a forest ranger and his wife in Uttarakhand’s Pauri Garhwal, the “smart boy” Ajay, had once joined the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) at the behest of a relative, only to realize that the party’s sensibilities did not suit him. He then went on to join the RSS student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), says Shantanu Gupta, who has written a biography on the UP CM titled The Monk Who Became Chief Minister.

Gupta described Yogi as a “no-gossip and curious boy”, who met the second mahant of the Gorakhpur Mutt, Avaidyanath, during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and impressed him so much that the latter indicated to him in 1993 that Adityanath was next in line to head the mutt. In those days Adityanath was known as “Chota Mahant” by those associated with the religious organisation.

“While the religious transfer of power happened in 1994,” recalled Gupta, his rise in politics started in 1998 when “Yogi Adityanath became a parliamentarian at the age of 26”.

Meanwhile, Adityanath’s image as a firebrand, anti-Muslim Hindu leader was already being established, said Vijai Trivedi, the author of another biography of the UP CM, Yada Yada hi Yogi, owing largely to some polarising speeches made by him

“The mutt had been the main centre of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement for over 60 years under Yogi’s predecessors Digvijay Nath and Avaidyanath, but the advent of Yogi Adityanath was marked with his aggressive approach on Hindutva along with the creation of the right wing outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV). His role in the eastern UP politics in the aftermath of the January 2007 communal riots and subsequent events further helped buttress this image. The mutt, which once saw visits by Muslims in large numbers, started witnessing a decline on that front under Yogi,” he said.

Yogi’s HYV, which describes itself as an outfit dedicated to Hindutva and nationalism, is linked with the agenda of cow protection, fighting against “Love Jihad” and performing “Ghar Wapsi” — a lot of which later found resonance in the BJP’s sankalp patra and narrative ahead of the 2017 polls, which the BJP won with a thumping majority. SHIKHA SALARIA

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