This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
In a move that surprised many, Yogi Adityanath, a mascot of Hindutva, was named the next CM of Uttar Pradesh. The 44-year-old five-term MP from Gorakhpur was elected the BJP legislature party leader at a meeting of the newly-elected MLAs. He was born as Ajay Singh, on June 5 1972 in a Rajput family.
He was born Ajay Singh, on June 5 1972 in a Rajput family. He completed his Bachelor's Degree in Science from HNB Garhwal University in Uttarakhand.
As he gained prominence in politics, he took up the mantle of Yogi Adityanath and became identifiable by his shaven head and trademark saffron-coloured robes.
Adityanath was the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha at 26. He has been elected as an MP from Gorakhpur to the Lok Sabha in the 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections.
Conflict with BJP
Adityanath has had a strained relation with the BJP for more than a decade. In December 2006, Adityanath had organised a three-day Virat Hindu Mahasammelan at Gorakhpur, during the same period when the BJP was holding its National Executive Meet in Lucknow.
The 2007 elections saw a conflict between Adityanath and the BJP leadership - he wanted more than hundred seats in this region to go to candidates selected by him, but the party leadership would not agree.
In March 2010, Adityanath was one of several BJP MPs who started the defiance to the party whip on the Women's Reservation Bill.
Adityanath is a strong advocate of construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, and has said that the hurdles in the path of building a grand Ram temple will be gradually removed and construction will begin soon.
He was made the Mahant (head priest) of the Gorakhnath Math, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, following the death of his spiritual father Mahant Avaidyanath in September 2014.
He is also the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a social, cultural and nationalist group of youth who seek to provide a rightist Hindu platform.
Controversies and Crimes
In 2015, Yogi Adityanath said that those who oppose yoga can leave India. He was also embroiled in the Love Jihad and Kairana exodus controversies.
He also once compared Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to terrorist leader Hafiz Saeed and asked him to go to Pakistan.
Adityanath has several criminal cases against him. Some of the charges are rioting, attempt to murder, armed with deadly weapon, trespassing on burial places and criminal intimidation.
In 1998, when he was just 26, Yogi Adityanath became the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha
He won successive terms in 1999, 2004, 2009 and in 2014
He is not just the popular choice among BJP’s 325 legislators, but also commands a giant following in eastern UP
GORAKHPUR: The chief minister-designate of Uttar Pradesh was born in the hills to Rajput parents. According to the records of the Gorakhnath Math, which he now heads, Yogi Adityanath was born Ajay Singh Bisht on June 5, 1972.
Little is known of his pre-Yogi days, except that he got a BSc degree in maths and renounced his family at the age of 21 to become a disciple of Mahant Avaidyanath, then the head priest of Gorakhnath Math. In the years that followed, Adityanath+ trained as a sanyasi, protecting cows, learning Hindu texts, and emerging, in less than five years since he was co-opted, as his Guru's most beloved disciple.
As the successor of Guru Gorakhnath temple, he also ran schools and colleges and managed a hospital.
Yogi's tryst with politics began in 1996, when he was named in-charge of managing the election campaign for Mahant Avaidyanath. In 1998, when Avaidyanath retired from active politics, he declared Yogi as his heir apparent, and also the nominee for the next Lok Sabha polls. In 1998, when he was just 26, Yogi Adityanath became the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha, going on to win successive terms in 1999, 2004, 2009 and in 2014. The 44-year-old Yogi Adityanath is not just the popular choice among BJP's 325 legislators, but also commands a giant following in eastern UP. Even though he remained the torchbearer of the Hindu cause, Yogi also played the 'Vrihad Hindu' card attempting, consciously, to widen his popularity base not just among the core Hindu voters, but also reaching out to the nearly disenfranchised Dalit community.
His Hindu hardliner image was strengthened after the 'Pachrukhiya' incident in Maharjganj district. On February 10, 1999, when Samajwadi Party member Talat Aziz was delivering a speech as a part of SP's 'jail bharo andolan', some miscreants opened fire on her. Rumours spread that the fire was opened following Yogi's directions. It was then that people began chanting slogans of 'Gorakhpur mein rehna hai to Yogi Yogi kehna hai'.
In 2002, he set up Hindu Yuva Vahini, a socio-cultural outfit, but whose volunteers were known to use strong-arm tactics in riots, cow-protection drives and in their attempts to curtail 'love jihad'. In 2005, Yogi led a purification drive — Ghar Wapasi — under which many 'returned' to Hinduism. Yogi landed in jail for his acts. He faced charges ranging from attempt to murder to defiling places of worship, rioting with deadly weapons and criminal intimidation. In recent years, Yogi has made little attempt to couch his ambitions. Early signs that he was ready to step out of the Mutt to take on a larger role than that of an MP came when Sunil Singh, a Yogi aide and state president of HYV, split from BJP and entered into an alliance with Shiv Sena. Singh announced that HYV candidates will contest against BJP in the 2017 assembly polls. Their grouse: revenge for the disrespect BJP showed to Yogi by denying him space in the party's national executive for the 2017 elections. While many believe this was a move orchestrated by Yogi to hammer in his growing clout — without which BJP could not progress in UP —the Mahant of Goarkhnath Mutt sacked Singh from HYV on the ground that it was a cultural organisation that could not contest elections.
Mathematics and politics
The Gorakhnath Math in Gorakhpur traces its origin to 11th century monk, Guru Gorakshnath, a yogi of the Nath Sampradaya - a Shaivite tradition within Hinduism. The Naths, in turn, attribute their origin to Dattatreya, the little known single embodiment of the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh.
Interestingly, Dattatreya and his followers were believed to inhabit the Girnar forest in modern-day Gujarat. Among Dattatreya's disciples was Matsayendranath, the preceptor of Gorakshnath - the latter's revolutionary contribution to his times was simplifying the Upanishadic teachings in argot. He gave the Shabar Mantra - a pledge to Lord Shiva -- to the common people, making no distinction of their caste or communal identity. In mythological terms, Gorakshnath's following was akin to Lord Shiva's baraat that included every living being.
In time, the Gorakshnath (lit. protector of cow) Shakti peeth emerged as an egalitarian construct where, until this day, the festival of Makar Sankranti is observed with distribution of khichdi to people of all castes, religions and faiths. It's a centuries old great tradition. Among the followers of Gorakshnath were the Gorkhas of Nepal, known for their military valour. Indeed, Gorakshnath was himself a martial ascetic, although he or his group wasn't part of Adi Shankaracharya's Akharas - or armed monasteries for religious renunciates. In more recent times, Gorakshnath's followers have become part of the Juna (ancient) Akhara.
As with most Sanatan saints, there are both historical and hagiographical accounts of Gorakshnath's existence. While the historical accounts locate him as a reformer who gave the masses access to Vedic and Upanishadic teachings, the celebratory accounts hold Gorakshnath as a 'siddha'. The Upanishads describe siddhas as beings that have progressed from a jivanmukta state to paramukta state - supremely free. With full power over death, when siddhas who have become paramukta, attain physical form for a special purpose, they are known as avatar. In the popular belief, Guru Gorakshnath was an avatar of Lord Shiva.
Today's Gorakhnath Math in Gorakhpur is a religious and political institution that runs two temples, one in Nepal in Gorkha district, and the other south of Gorakhpur that's said to contain the Samadhi - a yogi's final resting place -- of Guru Gorakshnath.
These two temples are thronged by devotees in tens of thousands on Makar Sankranti; not so long back, the Nepalese royals were known to occasionally visit one of these temples during the end-winter festival.
Because the monastic order, according to the principles of Gorakshnath, does not follow caste rules as other Hindu religious denominations do, non-Brahmins have served as its temple priests. The current Mahant or chief priest Yogi Aditya Nath is a Thakur. The Gorakhnath Math has been a busy hub of political activities for decades. Mahant Digvijay Nath was a member of the Congress in 1921. He was arrested for "actively participating" in the Chauri Chaura incident in which protesters clashed with the police. The subsequent violence led to the deaths of three civilians and 23 policemen, a turn of events that forced Mahatma Gandhi to call off his non-cooperation movement.
After independence, Digvijay Nath was arrested for his incendiary speeches against Gandhi before his assassination, and was jailed for nine months. He later led the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of 1949, organising a nine-day recitation of Ramcharit Manas, at the end of which idols of Ram and Sita were placed inside the Babri Masjid. The Mahants of Gorakhnath Math are known as kanphata yogis - they conduct 'cheera' or cut open the earlobes as a reminder to listen - not to the outside world, but only to their inner voice, or the voice of conscience. The still small voice that stops one from doing anything that leads to the accrual of bad karma.
A look at the life of Yogi Adityanath before he became the chief minister designate for Uttar Pradesh on March 18, 2017
June 5, 1972
Born in Garhwal (now Uttarakhand). Original name Ajay Singh Bisht
Completed BSc (maths) from Garhwal University
Received deeksha as a disciple of Gorakhnath temple head Mahant Avaidyanath, who declared him his successor
22-year-old Ajay Singh Bisht came to be known as Yogi Adityanath after he received 'deeksha' in 1994. Among those present on the occasion was Mahant Avaidyanath (2nd from right)
Won Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat for first time when he was just 26. Has won same on trot for 5 times
Samajwadi Party member Talat Aziz was delivering a speech as a part of SP's 'jail bharo andolan', some miscreants opened fire on her. Reportedly, the fire was opened following Adityanath's directions.
On Ramnavmi, founded the Hindu Yuva Vahini — a social, cultural and nationalist group of young people
Over 5,000 people were converted to Hinduism in Etah. Yogi had reportedly said: "I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu rashtra" 2002 & 2007 UP elections
Ties between him and BJP have been strained off and on. In both 2002 and 2007 UP elections, BJP and Adityanath were at conflict over number of seats to be given to candidates selected by him in Gorakhpur.
He announced a torchlight procession and a 'Shraddhanjali Sabha' for a Hindu boy killed in riots that broke out in Gorakhpur. DM had forbidden him from organising the meet but he and his followers set off. That was the first time he was jailed
Adityanath was one of several BJP MPs who did not adhere to the party whip on the Women's reservation Bill
After BJP's unprecedented victory in Lok Sabha polls, he was made a star campaigner for the assembly byelections. He raised issues like love jihad and religious conversions but it didn't cut much ice and BJP lost most of the seats. Since then, he has kept a low profile, politically
He became the Mahant (head priest) of the Gorakhnath math, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, after the death of his spiritual "father", Mahant Avaidyanath in September 2014
For the UP Assembly elections 2017, Adityanath was again named a star campaigner and held more than 150 rallies across the state, raised the law and order situation extensively, and made 'love jihad' a major issue
March 2017/ Why Yogi Adityanath was made UP CM
Modi and Shah always considered Yogi Adityanath a strong candidate.
Surveys showed popularity, campaigning showed discipline and appeal across states.
Contrary to media reports that Yogi Adityanath was a "surprise" choice as BJP's chief minister for Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah had always considered the Gorakhpur sanyasi+ as a strong contender.
The reasons were the Yogi's popularity, political heft, his appeal across castes and his demonstration of discipline in this round of polling. ET spoke to several top BJP leaders for this story. They all spoke on the condition they not be identified.
Several months before UP's election campaign started, Shah, a senior leader said, had asked home minister Rajnath Singh whether the latter wants to be BJP's CM candidate. Shah told Singh there are only two names, the minister's and the Yogi's, as possible CM candidates. The leader quoted above said Singh expressed his reluctance on becoming BJP's CM candidate and also argued the party should fight polls without formally identifying a face.
But that conversation, this leader told ET, was very early proof of how seriously the Yogi was being considered as a CM choice. And BJP's top leadership had data to back their preference.
Another leader said every survey commissioned by BJP in UP showed that, among voters at large, Yogi Adityanath was just a point behind Rajnath Singh in terms of acceptance as CM candidate.
And, among BJP supporters, the two were tied. These surveys, and Singh's unwillingness to come back to UP administration, had made Yogi a strong CM post contender much before UP's voters delivered a massive verdict for BJP.
That Yogi Adityanath's stature as a star campaigner helped his case has been mentioned. But that he showed "great discipline" in combating dissent in his stronghold of eastern UP is less well known, another senior BJP leader told ET, adding that the way the Yogi mastered that "political challenge" made him an even stronger candidate for the top job. This party senior said most of BJP's ticket distribution hassles were concentrated in the last phases of UP's 7-phase polls when eastern UP voted. "Several rebel candidates were contesting," this leader said, "but the Yogi worked very hard and in Gorakhpur, especially, went for door-to-door campaigning. He ensured all rebels lost. No other leader worked this hard or faced more challenges in the election than Yogi".
Another leader said Modi's and Shah's faith in Adityanath was demonstrated when they did not buy into reports that the eastern UP leader was behind some dissenting sections. "No one sought an answer from him. Some of our own leaders thought Adityanath can be a stumbling block for the party in Purvanchal. But Modiji and Shah knew that wasn't the case," this leader said.
Plain-speaking, Plain-living A BJP leader from UP recalled how Shah, during the 2014 campaign, had praised the Yogi. "The party chief stayed in the Gorakhpur mutt for a couple of days during the 2014 campaign and was very impressed with Adityanath's disciplined lifestyle, his attention to those in his care, his plain-speaking and his knowledge of history," the leader said.
"But most importantly, The Yogi's contribution to the campaign was most significant. If there was any doubt about his popularity with the cadre, the roadshow with Amit Shah settled it," the person said.
Yogi, many BJP seniors point out, was the only other BJP campaigner apart from Rajnath Singh who was asked to give speeches everywhere in the state during Modi's whirlwind 2014 campaign in UP. "Modi and the Yogi flew to Gorakhpur during the campaign," one leader said, adding the PM and Adityanath have "excellent relations". Such was Shah's faith in the Yogi, another BJP top functionary told ET, that when the party did poorly in state assembly byelections after the massive 2014 Lok Sabha show, the party president didn't blame the eastern UP leader, who was in charge of bypolls. Shah, the leader quoted above said, had argued that bypolls favour the party in power in the state and therefore Adityanath could not be blamed.
And the final factor in the Yogi's elevation was his appeal across castes. As one BJP senior explained it: "Adityanath (a Thakur) is a sanyasi and therefore above caste. And the Gorakhnath peeth has followers largely from backward castes, especially Yadavs...his appeal among backward caste groups is immense." Another BJP leader said the vacuum in Brahmin leadership in the Purvanchal region also helped Adityanath succeed, because Brahmins, numerically stronger than Thakurs in UP, extend support to Adityanath.
"The upper caste is with him and his followers are largely backward castes. In that sense Adityanath, unlike Rajnath Singh or Manoj Sinha or even Keshav Prasad Maurya, has appeal cutting across caste," this leader said. "And many Muslims attend his 9 am to 11 am panchayats in Gorakhpur," he added.
Gauraksha and Love jihad
The chief minister-designate of Uttar Pradesh was born in the hills to Rajput parents. According to records of the Gorakhnath Math, which he now heads, Yogi Adityanath was born Ajay Singh Bisht on June 5, 1972. Little is known of his pre-Yogi days, except that he got a BSc degree in mathematics and renounced his family at the age of 21to become a disciple of Mahant Avaidyanath, then the head priest of Gorakhnath Math.
In the years that followed, Adityanath trained as a sanyasi, protecting cows, learning Hindu texts, and emerging, in less than five years since he was co-opted, as his Guru's most beloved disciple. As the successor of Guru Gorakhnath Math, he also ran schools and colleges and managed a hospital. Yogi's tryst with politics began in 1996, when he was named in-charge of managing the election campaign for Mahant Avaidyanath. In 1998, when Avaidyanath retired from active politics, he declared Yogi as his heir apparent, and also the nominee for the next Lok Sabha polls. In 1998, when he was just 26, Yogi Adityanath became the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha, going on to win successive terms in 1999, 2004, 2009 and in 2014.
The 44-year-old Yogi Adi tyanath is not just the popular choice among BJP's 325 legislators, but also commands a giant following in eastern UP. Even though he remained the torchbearer of the Hindu cause, Yogi also played the `Vrihad Hindu' card attempting, consciously, to widen his popularity base not just among the core Hindu voters, but also reaching out to the nearly disenfranchised Dalit community .
His Hindu hardliner image was strengthened after the `Pachrukhiya' incident in Maharjganj district. On February 10, 1999, when Samajwadi Party member Talat Aziz was delivering a speech as a part of SP's `jail bharo andolan', some miscreants opened fire on her. Rumours spread that the fire was opened following Yogi's directions. It was then that people began chanting slogans of `Gorakhpur mein rehna hai to Yogi Yogi kehna hai'.
In 2002, he set up Hindu Yuva Vahini, a socio-cultural outfit, but whose volunteers were known to use strong-arm tactics in riots, cow-protec tion drives and in their attempts to curtail `love jihad'.
In 2005, Yogi led a purification drive purification drive -Ghar Wapasi -under which many `returned' to Hinduism. Yogi landed in jail for his acts.He faced charges ranging from attempt to murder to defiling places of worship, rioting with deadly weapons and criminal intimidation.
In recent years, Yogi has made little attempt to couch his ambitions. Early signs that he was ready to step out of the Mutt to take on a larger role than that of an MP came when Sunil Singh, a Yogi aide and state president of HYV , split from BJP and entered into an alliance with Shiv Sena. Singh announced that HYV candidates will contest against BJP in the 2017 assembly polls.Their grouse: revenge for the disrespect BJP showed to Yogi by denying him space in the party's national executive for the 2017 elections.
While many believe this was a move orchestrated by Yogi to hammer in his growing clout -without which BJP could not progress in UP -the Mahant of Goarkhnath Mutt sacked Singh from HYV on the ground that it was a cultural organisation that could not contest elections.
2008: convoy attacked in Azamagarh
A report that Yogi Aditya Nath was among top Indian leaders on the hit list of terror group Islamic State (IS) underlines the threat perception to the UP chief minister. He has long been on the hit list of militant organisations, but a murderous attack on him about a decade ago was carried out not by any terror outfit, but home-grown subversive elements in Azamagarh.
The attack on his convoy in Azamagarh on September 7, 2008, and the inside story of how he survived, has been documented in ‘Yogi Aditynath: The Rise of A Saffron Socialist’ published by Times Group Books. Written by TOI journalist Pravin Kumar, the book will be formally unveiled at Times Litfest Delhi 2017.
The book says that Yogi was on his way to address an anti-terrorism rally in Azamgarh to counter rival parties whose leaders had started making a beeline to the house of Abu Basheer, arrested for his alleged role in Ahmedabad blasts in July 2008.
According to the book, “Several saffron organisations, led by the Hindu Yuva Vahini, announced that they would hold a rally against terrorism in Azamgarh. Yogi was to be the chief speaker in the rally slated to be held at the DAV ground on 7 September 2008. On the morning of the rally, a fleet of 40 vehicles started from Gorakhnath Temple. Since it was feared that they might face hostilities in Azamgarh, Team Yogi was well prepared. In the convoy, Yogi’s red SUV was the seventh in number. However, nothing had prepared them for what was going to crop up on the outskirts of Azamgarh.
By the time the convoy came closer to Azamgarh, it already had a hundred fourwheelers and many more motorcycles. Besides, after intelligence inputs about the threat of an attack, a Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) unit was also following the fleet. But nobody knew what could be the place or form of the attack. At 1.20pm, just as the convoy was passing through the Takia, a little before Azamgarh town, a stone hit the seventh vehicle in the convoy. Soon, stones started coming from all directions. Then came petrol bombs...
It was a synchronised assault, planned well in advance. Its suddenness pulverised Yogi’s supporters. The fleet had been divided into three. Six vehicles had moved ahead and most of them were left far behind. But a few of them in the middle came under attack. Assailants had surrounded the vehicles and started attacking the occupants. They were hunting for their target. But he was nowhere to be found. His disappearance annoyed them and they turned fiercer.
But where was Yogi? After the men in the fleet recovered their senses, everybody was asking the same question. Meanwhile, reinforcements from other police stations had reached the troubled site and vendors on either side of the street came to the rescue and formed a shield around the vehicles under attack. The city’s circle officer, Shailendra Srivastava, ordered a counter offensive. One person was killed. The injured in the convoy were rushed to hospital. But there was still no trace of Yogi.”
As the search for him got frantic, it was found that Yogi had moved much farther ahead and was waiting for the rest of the vehicles. He was, in fact, in the first SUV of the fleet. The change-over had been done at a PWD guesthouse when the convoy had taken a short break. The attackers in Takia, probably, did not have the information about this last-minute change.
Apart from this, the book has several other unreported nuggets from Yogi’s fascinating life, from the scenic Pauri in Uttarakhand to one of the most revered maths of eastern UP and then finally to the CM house in Lucknow.
2006, did not help in Ajmer Sharif blast
Yogi had shrugged off Sunil Joshi when he met him at Gorakhpur to seek his help to “arrange some SIM cards and weapons."
In Aseemanand's “confessional“ statement, he was told by Sunil Joshi in June 2006 that he had not got any help from either Yogi or Rajeshwar Singh.
UP CM Yogi Aditya Nath had shrugged off Sunil Joshi, a convict in the 2007 Ajmer Sharif blast case, when he met him at Gorakhpur in 2006 to seek his help to "arrange some SIM cards and weapons", according to Swami Aseemanand's "confessional" statement recorded under Section 164 of CrPC but retracted later.
TOI, based on a reconstruction of events from statements recorded before a magistrate by Aseemanand and Bharat Mohan Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai, both accused in the Ajmer blast who are now acquitted by Special NIA court, Jaipur, has found that Sunil Joshi and Bharat Bhai had a meeting with Yogi Adityanath, then MP from Gorakhpur, in April 2006, at Aseemanand's behest. The latter had directed them in March 2006 to go to Agra to meet local Rajeshwar Singh and then get an audience with Yogi in Gorakhpur.
The two first went to Agra, where they met Rajeshwar who then took them to Gorakhpur to meet Yogi Adityanath. However, when they did get a chance to meet Yogi alone, he, as per the statement of Aseemanand recorded before a magistrate as well as an ac count provided by Bharat Bhai in his own statement under Section 164 of CrPC, showed no interest in their conversation and asked them to come back another day . "I am busy . You may meet me again after duly seeking time," Yogi was quoted by Bharat Bhai and Aseemanand as saying.
Joshi and Bharat Bhai thereafter left Gorakhpur and made no attempt to seek a second meeting with Yogi Aditya Nath. In fact, as per Aseemanand's "confessional" statement, he was told by Sunil Joshi in June 2006 that he had not got any help from either Yogi or Rajeshwar Singh.
Interestingly, Aseemanand later retracted the aforesaid confessional statement, claiming that it was made under duress. A NIA court acquitted Swami Aseemanand, Bharat Bhai as well as others in the Ajmer blasts case but convicted three others --Sunil Joshi (deceased), Devendra Singh and Bhavesh Patel.An NIA officer said that there was no scope for examining Yogi while probing the Ajmer blasts, as the statements of both Aseemanand and Bharat Bhai established that he had paid no heed to their alleged subversion plan, let alone be a party to the same. NIA had taken over probe into the Ajmer Sharif dargah blasts in 2011.