Lucknow: As the countdown begins for the ‘bhumi pujan’ of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, the BJP has found a new poster boy of “Hindutva” in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. With the BJP’s original Hindutva mascot Kalyan Singh slipping into political retirement, Yogi Adityanath has emerged as much younger and stronger Hindu icon.
Ever since he assumed the office of Chief Minister in March 2017, Yogi has made it a point to constantly reaffirm his commitment to the Hindu ideology.
By declining to address the Muslim community at the Eidgah on Eid-a tradition followed by all Chief Ministers- refusing to lift the ban on sale of meat on Bakrid, the Chief Minister has reinforced his image as a Hindu leader.
Even after becoming Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath continues to remain the chief priest of the famous Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, wears saffron robes and performs his religious duties without fail.
Without any qualms, the Chief Minister led the shifting of Ram idol from the original site to the makeshift structure at Manas Bhawan in March this year and is regularly seen offering prayers at various Temples.
He initiated the ‘Deepotsav’ function during Diwali in Ayodhya and has been working overtime to turn Ayodhya into a major tourist hub. Yogi has effectively translated his religious following into his political following and devotees of the Goraksh Peeth openly swear by his popularity as the Chief Minister.
Interestingly, Yogi’s popularity as a Hindu icon has now soared past the popularity of leaders who played key roles in the temple movement.
Kalyan Singh, now 88-year-old, lost much of his sheen when he revolted twice against the BJP – in 1999 and then in 2009- and joined hands in between with Samajwadi patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and formed his own party. He played caste politics and decimated his stature as a Hindu leader.
L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, the two stalwarts of the temple movement, have faded away from public memory to a great extent after they were eased out of active politics. The likes of Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti have also been side-lined from mainstream politics and are past their prime, apart from being largely unknown to the millennials.
Besides, unabashed showing his religious leanings, Yogi Adityanath has also impressed many by ensuring development of Ayodhya – a city that had remained steeped in backwardness for decades.
The Chief Minister has aggressively promoted religious tourism in Uttar Pradesh and his repeated visits to the holy cities like Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi reaffirm his commitment to Hindutva.
In a rare departure from established traditions, Yogi Adityanath penned an article in which he made an emotional appeal to the people to light lamps and candles in their homes to mark the ‘bhumi pujan’ which will turn the dream of Ram temple into reality.