AFTER day-long suspense, the BJP chose controversial MP Yogi Adityanath to head its first government in Uttar Pradesh in 15 years. The 44-year-old saffron-clad head priest of the Gorakhpur mutt would have two deputy chief ministers, Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma. A firebrand five-term MP from Gorakhpur and a hardline Hindutva leader, Adityanath was elected the BJP legislature party leader at a meeting of the newly elected MLAs, held a week after the BJP won UP by a three-fourth majority. In his first, brief interaction with the media after his surprise selection, Adityanath promised to follow Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ agenda, and strive for “good governance”. “I am confident the state will march on the path of development,” he said at Raj Bhavan, where he had gone to meet the Governor.
Addressing the media later, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who was the central observer for the election of the legislature party leader along with BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav, said Adityanath was a unanimous choice of the party’s 312 MLAs — and that Adityanath himself asked for the two deputies. By choosing Keshav Prasad Maurya, the BJP state chief, and Dinesh Sharma, who is the Lucknow Mayor, the BJP has got itself a Thakur (Adityanath), an OBC (Maurya) and a Brahmin (Sharma) as the face of its government in the state. None of the three incidentally is a member of the UP Assembly.
Adityanath, who was present at the press conference, did not talk to reporters.
Adityanath and the others will be sworn in at Lucknow’s Smriti Upvan on Sunday at 2.15 pm at a ceremony to be attended by Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Adityanath will be the 21st CM of UP.
The meeting of the BJP legislators began at 5.45 pm at Lok Bhawan, the new Secretariat building in the Chief Minister’s Office. The arrival of Adityanath 20 minutes earlier had taken everybody by surprise, first setting off the buzz that the MP whose supporters had long been pushing his case for the UP top job could be the BJP’s eventual choice.
Before arriving in Lucknow, Adityanath held a meeting with Amit Shah in Delhi. Later, Adityanath along with BJP state in-charge Om Prakash Mathur, Maurya and party state general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal flew into Lucknow on a chartered plane. They held a meeting at the VVIP guest house before coming to Lok Bhawan.
Around 7 pm, Dinesh Sharma too joined the legislators’ meeting.
The BJP MLA from Shahjahanpur, Suresh Khanna, first proposed Adityanath’s name as leader of the legislature group. Eleven other MLAs, including Dara Singh Chauhan, Swami Prasad Maurya, S P Singh Baghel, Virendra Singh Sirohi and Mukut Bihari Verma, supported the proposal. Naidu then asked the legislators to propose any other name if they wished to, but all the members gave their approval for Adityanath.
Naidu then informed Amit Shah over the phone about the proceedings of the meeting.
Naidu said Adityanath himself asked for two deputies saying UP was a big state, and added that Maurya and Sharma were then chosen by party leaders.
The senior BJP leader said Adityanath would decide the members of his Cabinet after consultation with party leaders on Sunday. People had given the BJP the mandate for development, he said. “This is a historic win. This is a watershed moment for the BJP… The BJP has become a common man’s party. UP message is very clear and it is that country wants to move with Modi. Mandate is for development, mandate is against corruption, against black money. This mandate is against caste politics, religious politics and vote bank politics,” he said.
Apart from Modi and Shah, the oath-taking ceremony on Sunday will be attended by the party’s central parliamentary board, several Union ministers and CMs of other BJP- and NDA-ruled states, including Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim and Jammu and Kashmir.
From Saturday morning, supporters of Maurya had been staging a demonstration at the party headquarters demanding he be made CM. One of them, Indraraj Kushwaha from Allahabad, said a majority of the OBC voters had cast their vote for the BJP because of Keshav Maurya. “Denial of CM post to Maurya will be injustice to OBCs,” he said.
In another corner, workers of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a pro-Hindutva outfit founded by Adityanath, staged a protest for his appointment, raising slogans such as “Desh mein Modi, pradesh mein Yogi” and “Bachcha, bachcha karey pukar, abki baar Yogi sarkar”. Aditya Singh, a worker from Mirzapur, said Adityanath alone was a leader of the Hindus in the state and that the party had won a number of seats because of him in every election.
After the meeting began at Lok Bhawan in the evening, security personnel had to close the main entrance gate to stop the supporters of both from entering the premises.
Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha, whose name also did the rounds as UP CM, meanwhile, spent Saturday morning in prayers at Varanasi temples — including Kashi Vishwanath, Kaal Bhairav and Sankat Mochan.