A Yogi in POLITICS
A look at the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s long spell in politics, his hardline approach, and how he has fared in his post so far
It’s a Saturday morning at the gorakhnath temple, and there’s a hustle-bustle in the compound: the chief minister’s in absentia durbar is on. callers phone in their complaints, and letters are issued that, hopefully, will solve their problems. In a sense, it’s an extension of what Yogi Adityanath used to conduct as the mahant of the temple and the local mp; now, it continues with him as chief minister. There are functionaries who take down the complaints and forward them to the right places; the crowd is an indication of how effective people think this forum is. As a chief minister who recently completed 100 days, Yogi Adityanath continues to draw influence and strength from the temple, which has all along propelled him ahead in politics. A phone call distracts everyone’s attention. The caller shouts: “I’m calling from ghaziabad and have lost my bike today morning. No one is filing my FIR. I want to talk to the chief minister.” Vijendra Singh, a middle-aged man with a crew cut who takes the call, sitting behind a wooden partition in a large room, is also busy typing with one hand. He takes on the caller: “What do you think? Does the chief minister have nothing else to do but go and find your bike? go, speak to the inspector in the area. If he’s not available, speak to the SSP, the DIG, the Ig and then the DGP! If no one listens to you, come to the chief minister.” He puts down the phone. “Saala sabko number mil jata hai or laga dete hain phone mukhyamantri ko! (Damn, everyone gets this number and decides to call up the chief minister)!”
on the other side of the fence from Vijendra Singh sit the petitioners. There’s a table and a chair that Yogi Adityanath would use when he used to be based at the temple. In his absence, a saffron towel has been draped on the chair; a pile of books and papers is on the table, among them a copy of the Ramayana. Behind the chair, there are photographs of Yogi Adityanath and other mahants. The symbolism is complete.
There are five others with Vijendra Singh, handling the two landline phones that ring incessantly. They also go to work on the two typewriters in the enclosure, clacking out letters of recommendations and instructions or appeals to a range of offices and institutions at the political and bureaucratic levels of government. The petitioners, having passed through security