On Sunday, Hindutva hardliner Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as the 21st chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, suggesting that the Bharatiya Janata Party has made an early move towards Hindu consolidation, with sights set on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Adityanath's appointment has rattled many who believe that religious polarisation is at the heart of his politics. He has previously said, "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..." Others believe that he is a hard-worker who will reduce considerably corruption in government, which would be hugely welcome in UP.
Adityanath, born Ajay Singh Bisht, is a five-time Lok Sabha member from Gorakhpur in eastern UP and he is the head priest of the Gorakhnath temple. Adityanath, 44, was 26-years-old when he first became a lawmaker in 1998. He has won the Lok Sabha seat from Gorakhpur in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014.
Over the course of the past 15 years, Adityanath has regularly attended Parliament, raising issues and introducing bills which reinforce his Hindutva agenda. The lawmaker's most infamous moment is when he opposed the bill which would have reserved 33 percent of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The priest-politician is also remembered for completely breaking down before the House while accusing the UP police for targeting him.
Ban Cow Slaughter And Religious Conversion
Over the past two sessions, Adityanath has introduced five private member bills. One bill calls for banning cow slaughter in the country. "In view of the consideration that the cow and its entire progeny must be saved to provide milk, as well as manure, it becomes imperative to impose complete ban on cow slaughter," he wrote in the statement of objects and reasons.
Another bill calls for the amendment of Article 1 of the Indian constitution to read "Bharat, that is Hindustan" instead of "India, that is Bharat." A third bill is to amend Article 144 of the Indian Constitution to read, "The State shall secure for the citizen a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India."
A fourth bill is to ban religious conversions in India. "The manner in which conversions are being promoted through money sent from abroad on the pretext of education or charity is a danger to the unity and integrity of the country," he wrote in the statement of objects and reasons.
A fifth bill is to create a Gorakhpur bench of the Allahabad High Court.
Adityanath has also either spoken on or raised questions about issues such as declaring the Bhagavad Gita a national book to be taught to students, the Uniform Civil Code, moving slaughter houses away from human habitation, the alleged exodus of Hindus from the town of Kairana in western UP, the need to protect the religious rights of Hindus, the protection of Hindus in Pakistan, and the ban of Pakistani movies and artists in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir.
The first came in 2007 when Adityanath broke down and cried in the Lok Sabha, accusing the Uttar Pradesh police for hounding him unfairly. Voice quivering and his eyes filling with tears, Adityanath told the Speaker, "I have come to appeal to you, am I member of this House or not. And will this House be able to protect me or not. If this House can't give me protection then I will leave today."
"I have taken sanyaas from my own life for my society, I have left my family. I have left my mother and my father. But today I'm being made to be a criminal," he said.
The second came in 2007 when he publicly opposed the introduction of the Women's Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha, contradicting his own party's support for the legislation. At the time, Adityanath said that he was not opposed to the Bill, but he alleged that it was forcefully cleared through the Rajya Sabha. The Upper House had passed the bill amidst protests from the Rashtriya Janta Dal and Samajwadi Party and after evicting lawmakers who opposed it.
At the same time, Adityanath said that there were more pressing issues at hand. "There are other important issues like terrorism and Naxalism, but a week has been wasted in Parliament by discussing reservation for women," he said. Attacking his own party for backing the bill, he said, "Internal democracy within the party is also important."
The Economic Timestoday reported that in an essay published on his website, Adityanath had argued that it was first important to establish how reservation in gram sabha and local bodies had impacted their roles as mothers and wives.
The Women's Reservation Bill, first introduced in 1996, has still not been passed by the Lok Sabha. Five out of the 43 ministers in Adityanath's cabinet are women.
Over 70 Percent Attendance
The Thakur priest, who hails from Uttarakhand, has an attendance of over 70 percent in the three Lok Sabha sessions since 2004. In the Lok Sabha session which started in 2014, Adityanath has 77 percent attendance so far--the national average is 81 percent, according to the information provided by the non-profit PRS Legislative Research. When compared to some lawmakers such as Rahul Gandhi, who has an attendance of 54 percent, Adityanath's record shines. But he was not counted among the top ten parliamentarians in the previous Lok Sabha session on the parameters of attendance, questions asked, participation in debates and private members bills introduced.
Adityanath, however, had spoken in more debates and raised more questions than the national average in the 2009-2014 and the ongoing Lok Sabha session. He has participated in 56 debates since 2014 --the national average is just over 45 in the ongoing session. He has asked 284 questions--the national average is 180.
In one debate in 2014, Adityanath questioned the then Samajwad Party government in UP about the hundreds of instances of communal violence unfolding in the state. "What is the reason for polarisation? On the one side, you say that you are secular, on the other side, you implement a communal agenda. There are more than 12 lakh sadhu, sants and pujaris in this country. But they only announce allowance for imams. They do one-sided investigation. Is this the secular agenda?" he said.
In addition to religious matters, Adityanath has raised questions and participated in debates on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from the need to include the Nishad community in the SC (Scheduled Castes) list and the impact of climate change to the design of railway bogies and non-payment of sugarcane farmers.
There are a few issues that Adityanath has raised time and again: inclusion of Bhojpuri language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, the disease of Japanese encephalitis, which has killed thousands of children in eastern UP, and the establishment of an institute like AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) in Gorakhpur.
During the 2009-2014 session, when the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was in power, Adityanath thrice raised the matter of carving out a separate state for Purvanchal.
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