Hindutva hardliner Yogi Adityanath of the Bharatiya Janata Party took oath today as the 21st chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous and politically significant state.
Adityanath, one of the most polarizing figure in UP, who has several criminal cases pending against him, was unanimously chosen by the 312 BJP lawmakers recently elected in the 2017 Assembly polls. He was administered the oath of office by Governor Ram Naik in a grand ceremony held at the Smriti Upvan complex in Lucknow.
The oath-taking ceremony was attended by senior leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, outgoing chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.
BJP state president Keshav Prasad Maurya and the mayor of Lucknow, Dinesh Sharma, who were chosen as the two deputy chief ministers, also took oath today. While Adityanath comes from a Rajput family in Uttarakhand, Sharma is a Brahmin and Maurya belongs to the OBC (Other Backward Classes).
In addition to the top three posts, 43 cabinet ministers took oath in the ceremony which was attended by tens of thousands of people. Cricketer-turned-politician Mohsin Raza will be the only Muslim face in Adityanath's cabinet.
Adityanath, 44, has won the Lok Sabha seat from Gorakhpur five times since 1998. His politics has revolved around religious polarisation. He has championed the campaign of "Ghar Wapsi," a program of re-conversion to Hinduism. As a star campaigner in the Assembly polls, Adityanath talked about "Love Jihad" and the alleged exodus of Hindus from the Muslim-dominated town of Kairana in western UP.
While there is concern over his history of communal polarisation, those who support Adityanath believe that he will run a corruption-free government - something which has been missing in Uttar Pradesh for decades.
Adityanath was the most prominent campaigner during the Assembly polls after Modi. Observers said that while Modi talked of development, Adityanath had the task of polarizing the electorate along religious line.
At a rally in Balrampur, he said, "If SP wins then there will be Karbala and Kabristan." At a rally in Sahibabad, he compared the alleged exodus of Hindus from Kairana to Kashmir in 1990. "If this country's majority, Hindus, are tortured, is it not an issue? But if a thorn pricks th e foot of someone from the minority community, it becomes an issue. This politics is strange," he said. At a rally in Bulandshahr, Adityanath praised US President Donald Trump for banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. "Similar action is needed to contain terror activities in this country," he said.
Adityanath is a staunch advocate of building the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
Over the course of his political career, Adityanath has made several controversial statements. Recently, the five-time parliamentarian has compared Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed and lauded US President Donald Trump on banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In a You Tube video which surfaced in 2014, Adityanath can be heard railing against religious conversion. He tells a crowd of thousands, "If they take one Hindu girl, then Hindus will take at least 100 Muslim girls" and "if they kill one Hindu, then we will kill 100...."
In 2002, Adityanath founded a group called the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a right-wing group based in Gorakhpur, which is dedicated to spreading the message of Hindu supremacy. The group, which exerts considerable influence in eastern UP, was allegedly involved in the riots of Mau and Gorakhpur in 2005 and 2007 respectively.