Fire­brand Hindu Cleric Yogi Adityanath Picked as Ut­tar Pradesh Min­is­ter

The Miracle - - Politics - Source: www.ny­times.com

NEW DELHI — In­dia’s gov­ern­ing party on Satur­day ap­pointed a fire­brand Hindu cleric to lead the coun­try’s most pop­u­lous state, a turn­ing point for a gov­ern­ment that has, un­til now, steered clear of openly em­brac­ing far-right Hindu causes. The choice of Yogi Adityanath — who has been re­peat­edly ac­cused of stir­ring an­tiMus­lim sen­ti­ments — to lead Ut­tar Pradesh, came as a shock to many po­lit­i­cal ob­servers here, who have be­come ac­cus­tomed to the care­fully mod­er­ated pub­lic po­si­tions of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, in line with his pro­jected im­age as a pro-de­vel­op­ment leader and global states­man. Mr. Adityanath has openly called for In­dia to be en­shrined as a “Hindu rash­tra,” or Hindu na­tion, and sup­ports the re­build­ing of a tem­ple to the Hindu god Ram, also known as Rama, on the site of a razed 16th-cen­tury mosque, a project that was halted af­ter it in­cited bloody re­li­gious ri­ots in the 1990s. With the ap­point­ment, Mr. Modi “is un­veil­ing a vi­sion of be­nign ma­jori­tar­i­an­ism,” said Shekhar Gupta, a long­time editor and po­lit­i­cal talk show host. “That means it’s a Hindu coun­try, that’s the fact, and we’ll be nice to you if you be­have your­self.” For Mr. Modi, the ap­point­ment rep­re­sents a “fi­nal re­jec­tion of Nehru­vian so­cial­ism, which al­most gave the mi­nori­ties a slightly ex­alted sta­tus,” said Mr. Gupta, re­fer­ring to Jawa­har­lal Nehru, In­dia’s first prime min­is­ter and in­de­pen­dence leader. Mr. Adityanath, who is of­ten seen wear­ing the saf­fron robes of a Hindu priest, told fol­low­ers he would fo­cus on Mr. Modi’s eco- nomic agenda. “I am con­fi­dent that the state will march on the path of de­vel­op­ment,” he said, in com­ments car­ried by The Press Trust of In­dia. In­dia is 80 per­cent Hindu, 14 per­cent Mus­lim and 2.3 per­cent Chris­tian, ac­cord­ing to the 2011 cen­sus. Mr. Adityanath’s ap­point­ment comes on the heels of Mr. Modi’s great­est po­lit­i­cal vic­tory since 2014. A week ago, his Bharatiya Janata Party won a land­slide vic­tory in Ut­tar Pradesh, which has a pop­u­la­tion of more than 200 mil­lion and was seen as a gauge of Mr. Modi’s chances of win­ning a sec­ond five-year term in 2019. The se­lec­tion of a hard-line Hindu chief min­is­ter sug­gests that the party cred­its rightwing ac­tivists for swing­ing the vote, said Mi­lan Vaish­nav, a se­nior fel­low in the South Asia pro­gram at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace. “The only con­clu­sion one can draw is that he feels the base is mo­bi­lized and that they helped de­liver this, and that there would be push­back if they did not get some­thing in re­turn,” Mr. Vaish­nav said. He added that he was “baf­fled” by the choice, which shifts at­ten­tion away from the pro-growth, de­vel­op­ment agenda that has been at the cen­ter of Mr. Modi’s po­lit­i­cal move­ment. “I think it’s a re­gres­sive choice, and a lost op­por­tu­nity for the prime min­is­ter,” he said. “This is a huge man­date, a huge vic­tory. But there is go­ing to be a back­lash if he doesn’t fig­ure out the jobs ques­tion. That’s is­sue No. 1.” Party loy­al­ists praised the de­ci­sion. Some mem­bers made the case that Mr. Adityanath’s se­lec­tion did not rep­re­sent a de­par­ture from Mr. Modi’s 2014 pledge to fo­cus on the econ­omy and cre­ate jobs. Oth­ers openly cel­e­brated the ad­vent of a more mus­cu­lar Hindu agenda. “Justice to all, ap­pease­ment to none,” said Sud­han­shu Mit­tal, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, in com­ments to NDTV, a cable news sta­tion. “Ap­pease­ment,” in this con­text, is typ­i­cally un­der­stood to mean poli­cies fa­vor­ing the rights of In­dian Mus­lims. “As a de­vout Hindu san­nyasi,” or some­one who has re­nounced worldly things, “he will guar­an­tee that the state doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate, and justice for all,” said Tarun Vi­jay, a for­mer B.J.P. mem­ber of Parliament. He added that as chief min­is­ter, Mr. Adityanath “may make ji­hadi in­tol­er­ant Mus­lims learn an al­pha­bet of hu­man­ity and ac­cept­ing dif­fer­ences as an In­dian.” Mr. Adityanath, 44, was born Ajay Mo­han Bisht, and stud­ied math­e­mat­ics be­fore join­ing the priest­hood. He rose to promi­nence as part of the cam­paign to re­build the Ram tem­ple, and has re­peat­edly been charged with fan­ning re­li­gious ten­sions. In 2007, he spent 15 days in jail on charges of in­cit­ing ri­ots, The Hin­dus­tan Times re- ported. He was booked again later in the year, when ri­ots broke out af­ter he made a speech. He is still fac­ing trial in the two cases, the news­pa­per re­ported. Mr. Adityanath was a force­ful de­fender of the Hindu mob who lynched Muham­mad Ikhlaq, a Mus­lim man sus­pected of slaugh­ter­ing a cow, and ar­gued that Mr. Ikhlaq’s fam­ily should be pros­e­cuted for pos­sess­ing the meat. When some In­di­ans com­plained that they should not be re­quired per­form a “sun sa­lu­ta­tion” as part of In­ter­na­tional Yoga Day cel­e­bra­tions, say­ing it was a re­li­gious act, he rec­om­mended that those who were of­fended should “drown them­selves in the sea.” He won his par­lia­men­tary seat in 1998, and was re-elected four times. He has par­tic­u­larly strong sup­port among Hindu priests and seers, who urged the B.J.P. to name him chief min­is­ter, say­ing it would clear the way for the con­struc­tion of the Ram tem­ple.

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