Bringing an end to the speculations regarding the name of Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, BJP on Saturday picked the controversial star face of the party, Yogi Adityanath. An MP from Gorakhpur constituency in East UP for five consecutive terms since 1998, Adityanath is known more for his fanatic Hindu image than his political acumen. He is the head priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur and is the founder of Hindu youth organisation, “Hindu Yuva Vahini”. His strong belief regarding the fate of India as a Hindu nation has earned him the epithet, “Hindu Hridya Samrat” by his supporters.
For Yogi Adityanath, politics and religion go hand in hand and it is precisely this ideology that has helped him maintain a firebrand Hindutva image. However he is not the first politician in India to appeal to the masses through an image projecting Hinduism’s predominance in the country. Read below about a few Hindu ascetics who went on to achieve political gains in the country.
A Hindu political activists, Digvijay Nath, was also the head priest of the Gorakhnath Mat. A member of the Hindu Mahasabha during the freedom struggle, Digvijay Nath was highly critical of Mahatma Gandhi. Digvijay Nath’s idea of independent India was thoroughly anti-Muslim and he is believed to have remarked once that if the Hindu Mahasabha came to power he would deny Muslims the right to vote till the time they proved their loyalty to the country. In 1949, Digvijay Nath raised the Babri Masjid issue as a means of acquiring power for his party and was instrumental in organising a nine-day long recitation of Ramcharitmanas in front of the Babri Masjid.
The religious predecessor and mentor of Yogi Adityanath, Mahant Avaidyanath was the head priest of the Gorakhnath mutt before Adityanath took over. He had won the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat, first as an independent candidate in 1970 and then later in 1989 as a candidate of Hindu Mahasabha. Avaidyanath had made the controversial proposition of mass sterilisation of Muslim girls for restraining population growth. He was also one of the leading figures of the Ram temple movement in Ayodhya.
Popularly known as Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, she was a katha vachak (one who delivers religious sermons) before she became an MP from Fatehpur constituency. She was appointed the minister of state for food processing industries in November 2014 by the BJP. Known for her religious hate remarks, Niranjan Jyoti had caused an uproar in December 2014 when as part of a party rally in Delhi she had appealed to voters to choose between Ramzadon (sons of Lord Rama) and Haramzadon ( illegitimately born), referring to the opposition parties.
Sakshi Maharaj, also known as Sachchidanand Hari Sakshi is an MP from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh and is a member of the BJP. He assumed office on May 2014 and has been a Member of Parliament three times in the past as well. A Hindutva religious preacher, Sakshi Maharaj has on several occasions been accused of incitement against minorities in his speeches. In September 2015, while addressing a crowd in Kannauj, he had accused Madrasas of creating terrorists and encouraging students to carry out love jihad. In another speech, he had urged Hindu women to produce at least 4 children for the sake of protecting Hinduism in India. Apart from his hate speeches aimed at minority groups, the saffron leader has also been accused of rape and corruption.
A popular face of the BJP, Uma Bharti is currently the union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation. Her political career began at a very early age when she joined the BJP and contested her first parliamentary elections in 1984. Her early interest in the Hindu religious texts had brought her into the notice of Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia who went on to become her political mentor. Bharti rose to prominence during her involvement in the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and was present at the demolition of the Babri Masjid. She was appointed the chief ministerial candidate for the 2003 Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, which her party won. However, one year into the chief ministerial role she was forced to resign under charges of having connections in the 1994 Hubli riots.