Yogi Adityanath was a "surprise" choice as BJP's Chief Minister for Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah had always considered the Gorakhpur sanyasi as a strong contender.
Are Hindu nationalists a danger to other Indians?
Yogi Adityanath was a "surprise" choice as BJP's Chief Minister for Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah had always considered the Gorakhpur sanyasi as a strong contender. The reasons were the Yogi's popularity, political heft, his appeal across castes and his demonstration of discipline in this round of polling. Yogi Adityanath, 44, has said minorities that oppose yoga should leave the country.
He is an Indian priest and politician with a "firebrand Hindutva”. He is the current Chief Minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh. A star campaigner for the BJP in the state, prior to being the Chief Minister, he has been a Member of Parliament from the Gorakhpur Constituency, Uttar Pradesh for five consecutive terms since 1998.
Adityanath is the head priest of the Gorakhnath Math, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur. He is also the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a militant youth organisation that has been involved in communal violence.
He once compared Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to a Pakistani terrorist leader Hafiz Saeed.
In 2005, Adityanath led a 'purification drive' which involved the conversion of Christians to Hinduism. In one such instance, 1,800 Christians were reportedly converted to Hinduism in the town of Etah in Uttar Pradesh. He said, "I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu state)."
In January 2007, an altercation occurred amidst a Hindu group and Muslims during a Muharram procession in Gorakhpur which led to the hospitalisation of a young Hindu, Raj Kumar Agrahari. Uttar Pradesh has a population of 200m people. About a fifth are Muslim.
"Why him?" "Why not?"
BJP's recent victory there is seen as a boost for Prime Minister Modi, who will be seeking another term in 2019's parliamentary elections. But Adityanath is widely regarded as a polarising figure because of his well-publicised anti-Muslim comments.
The BJP leaders probably believe that their election formula of consolidating the votes of the Hindu majority will help them to sail through the next general elections.
It's a double-edged strategy: it may succeed or could galvanise the disparate opposition parties to come together. The rise of Hindu nationalists has already triggered concerns among India's religious minorities, and the choice of Adityanath is likely to intensify them.
He recently praised a travel ban ordered by US President Donald Trump to block immigration from a group of Muslim-majority countries, saying India needed something similar.
The fear most people have is that if the country becomes a Hindu nation, goes on the track of Pakistan and starts using laws such as the blasphemy law to target minorities, what kind of country will we have? That will be real injustice, it won't be a blessing, it'll be a curse on the nation.
It's not just Muslims or Christians, perhaps the people they hate the most are the ones who are standing up for a different way of looking at the world, and therefore need to be silenced.