Ewww…is the first reaction that a lot of folks in my class when they hear this name “Yogi Adityanath”. To only hear the name causes this reaction, to see him coronated as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has been earth shattering to a lot of educated people. It is an event that causes one to question their own belief system, especially so to many PM Modi supporters who have been completely bowled over by his development agenda for the last 3 years.
It was my first reaction to this news as well and I spent the next 48 hours agonizing, questioning, reading, watching (his interviews/speeches) and analyzing. What I have come around to is supporting the Yogi in his role as the CM. This is an especially difficult call for me considering the kind of person I am…posh and iconoclast as I said in the title.
I grew up in Mumbai, an extremely cosmopolitan city, in a family that was extremely modern and irreligious and with a temperament that was extremely inquisitive and scientific. I hated religion, questioned foolish rituals, laughed at pilgrimages and people fasting etc. I also had a healthy distaste for our festivals which I thought were noisy and a nuisance. My education and job kept polishing me more and more into the Western ways and now I am a Brit living in London for many years. I wear Hugo Boss or Armani suits, an Armani watch, Ferragamo ties and Dolce perfumes in my day job. I speak English in the posh British accent with rolled “Rs” and “Ts”. In short, I am the least likely person to support a saffron clad Yogi, so why…why indeed?
After the initial shock, I began to read up on the Yogi in detail. Many folks have now written down about his life. He took diksha at the age of 22 and joined Mahant Avidyanath in the Gorakhnath muth. This is a big religious institution from the “Nath” tradition of monks, dedicated to Gorakhnath (descendants of Datta Guru), the most prominent one with temples all over India. The Nath tradition is responsible for keeping the Yoga traditions alive through the centuries; this order is also active in opposition to the caste system and its social work for the masses. After Mahant Avaidyanath’s death, Adityanath became the Head of the Muth. This Muth with the temple is the mainstay of Gorakhpur city and the Yogi is a very popular figure with almost God like status in the area.
Through the years, the Yogi has served people of the town and expanded his influence over the entire Lok Sabha constituency through his work. The Yogi has been winning elections as a MP since 5 terms and every time the margin of win has grown (the latest one being close to 300,000 votes). The Yogi has eradicated gang wars in this area, has undertaken projects like schools, hospitals through the Temple’s trust and has now got an AIIMS approved for Gorakhpur.
The Yogi has been active in exposing the criminal nexus that existed on Nepal border in child trafficking, fake currency and such aspects for which he was slapped with cases by the SP government in the past. He is a tough cookie, known administrator with no apparent bias towards anyone when providing munificence from his activities. Obviously, we cannot ignore the comments he has been infamous for which have been made in a specific context or against reactions to certain events.
So why am I deciding on supporting the Yogi despite all my prejudices and inclinations, here are the reasons, and these are very simple and practical and completely geared towards what UP needs right now:
· 1. He is a “Yogi”. A lot of us deracinated, English medium learnt people don’t know the real meaning of this word. If you do some yoga, you will know the inner peace and strength you derive but for a while. True Yogis have left all attachments and then spend years in meditation and Yoga which gives them tremendous inner strength and fortitude. I would trust such a person to be single minded and devoted to the goal he has undertaken.
· 2. Though his record in terms of speeches made (or selectively quoted) raise concerns on his approach to Muslims, his actions and facts on the ground suggest something totally different. His Head of Staff at the Muth is a Muslim, so are many of the staff members in the temple. Every year, a month long fair is held at the temple called “Khichadi ka mela”. This has shops out of which 95% are run by Muslims. He runs a daily “Jan Sabha” everyday for 2 hours where he meets people from his constituency and solves their problems irrespective of what caste/religion they belong to. I saw a lot of Muslims from his constituency celebrating his coronation when the news was announced.
· 3. His parliamentary record is also exemplary (for a saffron clad Yogi), he has 80% attendance and has asked 250 questions so far on varied subjects like sports, foreign broadcasting in border areas, farmer debts, electronic manufacturing clusters, inland water ways, immunization, uniform minimum wages etc. (source - http://www.prsindia.org/mptrack/yogiadityanath). For a saffron, uncouth brute – this record doesn’t quite fit the image built of him.
· 4. He has been at the forefront in maintaining communal peace in Eastern UP, the most backward area in UP which had a history of communal violence before he rose. This is in contrast to Western UP where the Muzzafarnagar riots created havoc.
· 5. He is a karmath (martinet) person and a hard task master, wakes up at 4 am and works very hard. UP is a state in shambles, the bureaucracy and police are thoroughly politicized and used to oppressing the common populace. Criminals have been given a totally free run in the SP regime, it needs a tough cookie like the Yogi who can drive fear into the hearts of miscreants and officialdom – a true “nirmohi” who has no attachments or desires but the task at hand.
· 6. One word on the slaughterhouse issue – a lot of mechanical slaughterhouses are going to be closed down. This is a long standing demand of the people in UP and a long festering problem for people. The meat produced in these factories is invariably from cattle which are stolen from farmers across the state by well financed and run gangs. The meat is exported across the border and to Muslim countries and has made many folks rich. This was the underlying issue behind the Akhlad-Dadri incident. These will be shut down and it will generate a lot of noise in the media on the supposed “intolerance” and “job losses” but this is a real problem that exists.
· 7. Even if the Yogi does try and slip into “naughty” behavior, he has two Deputy CMs to “help” him and a very strong cabinet full of heavy hitters plus special focus from the Centre as they want to ensure UP is in fast track to visible development before the 2019 elections which are crucial.
· 8. A final word – I was taught and read lot of Indic stories while growing up (my thirst for knowledge stops at nothing) and have heard of heroes who are also Yogis – those who have divine powers through years of “tapasya” and are “vighnahartas” and achieve “jan-kalyan”….when I look at the Yogi and his demeanor, his actions and his track record…I am tempted to disregard all his malicious “statements” and more inclined to believe his passion for a balanced narrative, same treatment to all (rather than appeasement of a certain section), progress of all and a healthy society.