Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will complete four months in office by the end of July. His tenure so far has been under intense media scrutiny considering his choice for the top post was seen as surprising and controversial by many. Adityanath, a five-time MP from Gorakhpur, was chosen by the BJP leadership for the CM’s post after the party rallied to a landslide win in the Assembly elections earlier this year.
The foreign press also found Adityanath’s appointment controversial considering his past statements and rhetoric against Muslims. Here, we look at how the world media has covered the tenure of the mahant-leader so far.
The New York Times
A recent piece in The New York Times talks about Adityanath having the potential to take a springboard leap for higher office. The newspaper describes Adityanath as a ‘Hindu warrior-priest’ who was an astonishing choice to lead the country’s most-populous state by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It says so far in his tenure, Adityanath has been receiving the kind of media attention that could propel him towards higher office.
“He is automatically on anybody’s list as a potential contender to succeed Modi,” Sadanand Dhume at the American Enterprise Institute was quoted saying. “They have normalized someone who, three years ago, was considered too extreme to be minister of state for textiles. Everything has been normalized so quickly.”
The report goes on to describe Adityanath’s early background as he took baby-steps to ultimately become the high-priest of the Gorakhnath temple and then an elected MP from Gorakhpur. After he took office, Adityanath took populist decisions like warning officials to work longer hours and forming police teams to cut down on harassment of women. The report says even though Adityanath may be working to re-branding himself as a mainstream leader, his followers in the Hindu Yuva Vahini are not particularly pleased.
“This thing is going on in Yogi’s head that my shirt should not get a stain,” a HYV worker is quoted saying. “I couldn’t care less for his stained shirt. I can’t do good work and avoid getting a stain.”
The Washington Post
Launching ‘anti-Romeo squads’ to stop harassment of women at public places was in the BJP’s campaign manifesto. Adityanath, soon after coming to power, announced the decision to form such squads and directed police to ensure that women are protected from eve-teasing.
The Washington Post, in March, reported on the government decision to form ‘anti-Romeo squads’. “Adityanath, a saffron robed priest who is also a five-term member of Parliament, had promised the squads as a public safety measure during a heated state election campaign, but some compared them to moral policing,” the newspaper reported.
It said Adityanath, who is known for making incendiary speeches, has railed against what he calls ‘love jihad.’
“Adityanath is also moving forward with plans to build a museum in the Uttar Pradesh town of Ayodhya, not far from where a holy site has been disputed by Muslims and Hindus for decades,” the report said.
The BBC describes Adityanath as a ”saffron-robed Hindu priest’ who is ‘loved and hated’ in equal measure.
“A brilliant orator, Yogi Adityanath has been elected MP for Gorakhpur five times since 1998 and the crowds there worship him. Many tell me he’s a “reincarnation of the gods, a God himself”. But he is also a very controversial leader who has often been in the news for the wrong reasons. Critics describe him as India’s most divisive and abusive politician who used his election rallies to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria,” a BBC report said soon after his appointment as the chief minister of the state.
The report quoted some of the most controversial statements he has made in the past reasoning why many were surprised that he was given the responsible charge of leading a state which has quite a record of violent riots.
“Yogi Adityanath also faces criminal charges. He has been accused of attempted murder, criminal intimidation and rioting in relation to a clash that took place in 1999. And in 2007, he spent 11 days in jail for making inflammatory speeches,” the BBC report said.