In a surprise move, the BJP on Saturday chose firebrand Hindutva leader Yogi Adityanath as the new Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister with two deputies — a first in the state — in Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma.
The new dispensation would be sworn in on Sunday at 2.15 p.m., Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters after a meeting of the newly-elected 312 BJP legislators in Lucknow.
The oath taking ceremony is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah and union ministers and Chief Ministers of various states.
Naidu said Adityanath, 44, the five-time Gorakhpur MP, emerged as a consensus candidate in the first meeting of the new legislature party.
“As soon as the MLAs heard Yogiji’s name, they stood and supported the proposal,” said the minister, who was the BJP observer for the selection of the Chief Minister.
“Eleven MLAs proposed his name and all others unanimously supported it.”
Naidu said Adityanath — who comes from the Rajput community — wanted two other “senior leaders” to help him run the government smoothly and state BJP chief Maurya and Lucknow Mayor Sharma were chosen as Deputy Chief Ministers.
This is for the first time in the history of Uttar Pradesh that the state will have two deputy heads of the government. BJP sources said that this was done to balance caste aspirations since now there is a Rajput as chief minister and an MBC and a Brahmin face as deputies.
Adityanath is the head of the Gorakhnath Mutt in Gorakhpur, which has millions of followers from eastern Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring Nepal.
A science graduate, the Chief Minister-designate is popular for his fiery speeches among his supporters but has antagonised minorities by his statements like “Love Jihad” and “Ghar Wapasi”.
Known for his hardline Hindutva politics, he had proposed a US-like anti-Muslim immigration ban to stop terrorism in India. “Similar action is needed to contain terror activities in this country,” he said in his controversial remarks ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections that the BJP won with a landslide, trumping the opposition.
He also courted controversy by comparing western Uttar Pradesh, which has a huge concentration of Muslims, with Kashmir over the alleged Hindu exodus from Kairana. “Have you forgotten the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990? If you do not wake up even now, you will also be forced to migrate to other regions,” he said, promising to act “strictly” against those who were forcing Hindus to flee if the BJP came to power.
Opposition parties lashed out at the BJP over the election of the Hindutva leader for the top post in the country’s most populated state.
“There is a categorical, unambiguous message being sent by Prime Minister Modi. With the choice of a very communal, a Hindutva champion like Yogi Adityanath, the BJP is going to pursue a policy of clear polarisation,” Congress leader Sanjay Jha said.
Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said it was the prerogative of the BJP, which is in a majority, to make the choice but “it is evident that it wants to pursue a strong Hindutva line”
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat said: “The choice is a clear RSS agenda because they want to develop Uttar Pradesh as the centre of Hindutva project.”