From farm loan waivers to anti-Romeo squads, Yogi Adityanath has been under the spotlight ever since he took charge as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in March. But since Tuesday, he has been busy performing his other role — as head priest of the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, conducting special pujas during Navaratri.
On Friday, Adityanath performed a puja from 3 am to 7 am at the Durga temple near his room on the temple’s premises. Then, he performed a “kanya puja” by washing the feet of nine girls, applying the “tika” on their forehead and offering them garlands and the “chunri”. At noon, he served food to more than 100 children who had been invited to the temple for a “special feast”.
According to temple staff, “Mahantji” has been conducting “special pujas” at the temple from 4 am to 7 am and 4 pm to 7 pm, every day over the last five days. And, according to government officials, he attends to official work in between, displaying “good coordination”.
“After the morning puja, he meets local administration officials and monitors security arrangements for Dussehra and Moharram. Then, he speaks to the Chief Secretary, DGP, principal secretaries of important departments and officials in the Chief Minister’s secretariat in Lucknow over phone, as and when required,” said a temple staffer, who is known to be close to Adityanath.
“The Chief Minister remains in touch with officers in Lucknow and discusses necessary issues. Everything is being done normally and smoothly,” said Ajay Kumar Singh, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) at the Chief Minister’s Office in Lucknow. Singh has accompanied Adityanath to Gorakhpur and is posted inside the temple, accepting applications from the public and liaising with government officials across the state.
Temple staff and officials say Adityanath will wrap up his Navaratri duties on Saturday by offering prayers in all the temples on the premises before leading a “shobha yatra” (religious procession).
“Mahantji is operating as Chief Minister here as well. On Thursday, he held a meeting with local public representatives and those in-charge of academic institutions and social organisations run by the Gorakhnath temple,” said P K Mall, state organisation general secretary of Hindu Yuva Vahini, an outfit formed by Adityanath.
Speaking over phone from Lucknow, an official at the Chief Minister’s secretariat said, “The CM is available over phone and email. When he is busy with pujas and rituals, the message is communicated to his OSD, who reverts with the CM’s response. The preparations for various government programmes are being monitored by the CM from Gorakhpur.”
Officials say Adityanath reached Gorakhpur on Tuesday afternoon after attending the Cabinet meeting in Lucknow. He had also approved an extension in service for the current DGP who was scheduled to retire on Saturday.
At the temple, meanwhile, staff say the big difference this time is that Adityanath has not been able to confine himself to the premises during Navaratri.
“According to tradition, he is supposed to remain confined in the first floor of the temple block through all the nine days of Navaratri. But this time, he left for Lucknow after performing puja on the first day before returning on Tuesday. This was the second time he came out of the residential block during Navaratri. In 2015, he left the premises when a rail accident occurred in Gorakhpur, his Lok Sabha constituency,” said an employee at the temple’s office.
“Also, only a select group of priests were allowed to be present during the ‘shastra puja’ on Wednesday. No photographs were released of the puja because Adityanath is now Chief Minister,” he said.