Yogi Adityanath (born Ajay Mohan Bisht; 5 June 1972) is an Indian monk and Hindu nationalist politician serving as the 22nd and current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, in office since 19 March 2017.
He was appointed as the Chief Minister on 26 March 2017 after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the 2017 State Assembly elections, in which he was a prominent campaigner. He has been the Member of Parliament from the Gorakhpur constituency, Uttar Pradesh, for five consecutive terms since 1998.
Adityanath is also the Mahant or head priest of the Gorakhnath Math, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, a position he has held since the death of his spiritual "father", Mahant Avaidyanath, in September 2014. He is also the founder of Hindu Yuva Vahini, an extremist organisation. He has an image as a right-wing populist Hindutva firebrand.
Early life and education
Yogi Adityanath was born as Ajay Mohan Bisht on 5 June 1972 in the village of Panchur, in Pauri Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh (now in Uttarakhand). His father Anand Singh Bisht was a forest ranger who passed away on 20 April 2020 in AIMS Hospital New Delhi. He was the second born in the family, among four brothers and three sisters. He completed his bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Uttarakhand.
He left his home around the 1990s to join the Ayodhya Ram temple movement. Around that time, he also came under the influence of Mahant Avaidyanath, the chief priest of the Gorakhnath Math and became his disciple. Subsequently, he was given the name 'Yogi Adityanath' and designated as the successor of the Mahant Avaidyanath. While based in Gorakhpur after his initiation, Adityanath has often visited his ancestral village, establishing a school there in 1998.
Adityanath renounced his family in 1993, at the age of 21 and became a disciple of Mahant Avaidyanath, the then high priest of Gorakhnath Math. He was promoted to the rank of Mahant or high priest of the Gorakhnath Math after the death of his teacher Mahant Aavaidyanath on 12 September 2014. Yogi Adityanath was made Peethadhishwar (Head Seer) of the Math amid traditional rituals of the Nath sect on 14 September 2014.
Scholar Christophe Jaffrelot states that Yogi Adityanath belongs to a specific tradition of Hindutva politics in Uttar Pradesh that can be traced back to the Mahant Digvijay Nath, who led the capture of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya for Hindus on 22 December 1949. Both Digvijay Nath and his successor, Mahant Avaidyanath, belonged to the Hindu Mahasabha and were elected to the Parliament on that party's ticket. After the BJP and the Sangh Parivar joined the Ayodhya movement in the 1980s, the two strands of Hindu nationalism came together. Avaidyanath switched to the BJP in 1991, but nevertheless maintained significant autonomy. Yogi Adityanath was appointed Avaidyanath's successor as the Mahant of Gorakhnath Math in 1994. Four years later, he was elected to the Lower House of the Indian Parliament (the Lok Sabha).
After his first electoral win, Adityanath started his own youth wing Hindu Yuva Vahini, which has been known for their activities in the eastern Uttar Pradesh and was instrumental in Adityanath's meteoric rise . There have been recurrent tensions between Adityanath and the BJP leadership over the allocation of election tickets. However, the BJP has not let the tensions mount because Adityanath has served as a star campaigner for the party.
In 2006, he took up links between Nepali Maoists and Indian Leftist parties as key campaign issue and encouraged Madhesi leaders to oppose Maoism in Nepal. In 2008, his convoy was attacked en route to Azamgarh for an anti-terrorism rally. The attack left one person dead and at least six persons injured.
Member of Parliament
Adityanath was the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha at 26. He has been elected to the Parliament from Gorakhpur for five consecutive terms (in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections).
Adityanath's attendance in Lok Sabha was 77% and he has asked 284 questions, participated in 56 debates and introduced three private member Bills in the 16th Lok Sabha.
Relations with the BJP
Adityanath has had strained relations with the BJP for more than a decade. He often derided and undermined the BJP, criticising its dilution of the Hindutva ideology. Having established his own independent power base in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, with the support of the Hindu Yuva Vahini and the Gorakhnath Math, he felt confident to be able to dictate terms to the BJP. When his voice was not heard, he revolted by fielding candidates against the official BJP candidates. The most prominent example was the fielding of Radha Mohan Das Agarwal from Gorakhpur on a Hindu Mahasabha ticket in 2002, who then defeated BJP Cabinet minister, Shiv Pratap Shukla by a wide margin. In 2007, Adityanath threatened to field 70 candidates for the state assembly against the BJP candidates. But he reached a compromise in the end. In 2009 Parliamentary elections, Adityanath was rumoured to have campaigned against the BJP candidates who were then defeated.
Despite his periodic revolts, Yogi Adityanath has been kept in good humour by the RSS and the BJP leaders. The deputy prime minister L. K. Advani, the RSS chief Rajendra Singh and the VHP chief Ashok Singhal have visited him in Gorakhpur. During 22–24 December 2006, Adityanath organised a three-day Virat Hindu Mahasammelan at Gorakhpur at the same time as the BJP National Executive Meet in Lucknow. Despite the conflict, several RSS and VHP leaders attended the Mahasammelan, which issued a commitment to pursue the Hindutva goals despite the BJP's claimed "abandonment" of them.
In March 2010, Adityanath was one of the several BJP MPs who defied the party whip on the Women's Reservation Bill in the Parliament.
In 2018, he campaigned for BJP candidate Pratap Puriji Maharaj for Rajasthan state assembly election.
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
He was a prominent campaigner for the BJP in the 2017 assembly elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh. He was appointed Chief Minister, of the state on Saturday, 18 March 2017 and sworn in the next day on 19 March, after the BJP won the assembly elections. The illegal slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh faced shutdowns from the administration after his becoming the Chief Minister. Yogi ordered the forming of anti-romeo squads. He imposed a blanket ban on cow-smuggling and stay on UPPSC results, exams and interviews till further order. He imposed a ban on tobacco, pan and gutka in government offices across the state and made the officials pledge to devote 100 hours every year for the Swachh Bharat Mission. More than 100 policemen were suspended by the Uttar Pradesh police.
After becoming the CM of UP, he kept around 36 ministries to himself including Home, Housing, Town and country planning department, Revenue, Food and Civil Supplies, Food Security and drug administration, Economics and statistics, Mines and Minerals, Flood control, stamp and registry, prison, general administration, secretariat administration, vigilance, personnel and appointment, information, institutional finance, planning, estate department, urban land, UP state reorganisation committee, administration reforms, programme implementation, national integration, infrastructure, coordination, language, external aided project, Relief and Rehabilitation, Public Service Management, Rent Control, Consumer protection, weights and measures.
In his first cabinet meeting held on 4 April 2017, decision was taken to waive off loans of nearly 87 lakh small and marginal farmers of Uttar Pradesh, amounting to ₹363.59 billion (US$5.1 billion). For India's Independence Day celebrations in 2017, his government singled-out Muslim religious schools to provide video evidence that their students had sung the Indian national anthem.
The New York Times relayed analysts' estimations of Adityanath as a candidate for Prime Minister of India in 2024, provided he "delivers on some fronts".
On 3 January 2016, a day after the terrorist attack on an Indian air force base in Pathankot allegedly by Pakistani terrorists, Adityanath compared Pakistan to Satan.
Adityanath has praised the US President Donald Trump's decision to enact a ban on citizens from 7 Muslim-majority countries entering the United States and has called for India to adopt similar policies to tackle terrorism.
In 2005, according to a media report, Adityanath was involved in a 'purification drive' that involved the conversion of about 1,800 Christians to Hinduism in the town of Etah in UP. He said that he wouldn't stop until he turns Uttar Pradesh and India into a Hindu state.
In January 2007, Adityanath with other BJP leaders had gathered to mourn the death of a man who was killed because of religious violence. He and his supporters were subsequently arrested by the police and lodged in Gorkhapur jail on the charges of disturbing peace and violating prohibitory orders. His arrest led to further unrest during which several coaches of the Mumbai bound Mumbai-Gorakhpur Godan Express were burnt, allegedly by protesting Hindu Yuva Vahini activists. The day after the arrest, the District Magistrate and the local police chief were transferred and replaced.
In 2011, the documentary film Saffron War – Radicalization of Hinduism accused Adityanath of promoting communal disharmony in Uttar Pradesh through hate speeches.
In 2010, when opposing the Women's Reservation Bill, Adityanath said that reservation doesn't affect women's domestic responsibilities such as childcare. He added that if men develop feminine traits they become gods, but if women develop masculine traits they become demons.
In an undated video that surfaced on YouTube during August 2014, Adityanath, reportedly during a public speech at Azamgarh, referring to the religious conversions due to inter-religious marriages, has said, "if they take one Hindu girl, we will take 100 Muslims girls." In the same video, he continues by saying, "if they kill one Hindu, there will be 100 that we" and pauses, as the gathered crowd shouts: "kill".
In February 2015, while speaking at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’, Adityanath commented: "If given a chance, we will install statues of Goddess Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi " — Hindu deities — "in every mosque."
In June 2015, Adityanath, while talking about Surya Namaskara, and Yoga said that those who want to avoid Yoga can leave Hindustan. He "requested" those who see communalism in the Sun God to drown themselves in the sea or live in a dark room for the rest of their lives.
In 2008, his convoy was reportedly attacked while en route to Azamgarh for an anti-terrorism rally. The attack left one person dead and at least six persons injured.
- Haṭhayoga svarūpa evam sādhanā, Gorakhapura : Śrī Gorakshanātha Mandira, 2007, 148 p.
- Rājayoga : svarūpa evaṃ sādhanā, Dillī : Prabhāta Prakāśana, 2019, 176 p.