Uttar Pradesh state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath salutes during Independence Day celebrations in Lucknow, India. Image Credit: AP

While conventional wisdom has it that Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has comprehensively bungled up the handling of the Hathras horror of the gang rape and murder of a teen, Yogi believes nothing of that sort.

The 48-year-old chief minister of India’s politically most significant state is also the mahant (chief priest) of the powerful Gorakhnath math situated in Gorakhpur. The earlier ‘peethadhiswars’ of the math, including Adityanath’s spiritual father Mahant Avaidyanath, were the original votaries of Hindutva. And, Yogi Adityanath was a five-term Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur.

Yogi’s decisions post the rape and murder are absolutely in character. Those close to “maharaj” as Yogi is referred to by his officials, say the only thing Yogi wants to signal is strength and the absolute power of the strong man - hence the spate of sedition cases.

Says an upper caste official, who is exceptionally close to Yogi: “Did Modi as Gujarat chief minister ever signal consensus or reviews of controversial decisions? Yogi is the Hindu Hriday Samrat (emperor of Hindu hearts) much more than Modi. He wears saffron. Yogi Adityanath feels all his decisions are guided by a higher power with whom he is in constant communion. There will never be any review or reach out from our chief minister.”

Yogi Adityanath believes that those opposed to him are indulging in chicanery. A slogan of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a private vigilante army founded by Yogi, is insightful: “UP mei rehna hoga toh Yogi kehna hoga. (if you want to live in UP you have to chant Yogi’s name).” Most head priests develop some sort of God complex. In Yogi’s case, because he has absolute sway over the devotees of the Gorakhnath math, he gets in to near rage at dissent. It is something that is intolerable to him. Before being anointed chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2017, Yogi had a rocky relationship with the BJP, often putting up candidates against the party and rebelling because he was not the last word in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The Hindu Yuva Vahini was set up because of his anger at the BJP.

Amit Shah, Union Home Minister, while telling Yogi that he had been chosen to be Uttar Pradesh chief minister, had cautioned him that he should “represent all samudai” (all sections). And, that a saffron seer who has no caste had been appointed chief minister.

Yogi, who possesses a Bachelor of Science degree from Garhwal University, was dismissive of Shah’s cautions. It is known that Yogi only fully trusts his own clan members even as anger brews in Uttar Pradesh over the “Thakur raj”.

The inherent problem is the difference in the RSS perception, which Shah was reflecting: of a united Hindu Samaj where lower castes are coopted both for votes and as a societal project and Yogi’s medieval mindset which sees the upper castes as the rightful rulers. Yogi does not possess the flexibility of most politicians as he views himself through a self-righteous prism.

Read more from Swati Chaturvedi

The teen who was gang raped and murdered belonged to the Valmiki caste, which had voted for the BJP in substantial numbers. How Yogi’s near upending of the caste alliances, which produced historic verdicts for the BJP, is the real thing to watch.

Swati Chaturvedi, Special to Gulf News-1592296808900