Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said that he would be taking five days off in a month to attend to his duties as head priest of the Gorakhnath Temple. Television networks ran this part of his speech only once. Either the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) forced the channels to take the story off or the chief minister himself felt so embarrassed that he withdrew his statement. That could be the reason why the speech did not see the light of day in print.
What Adityanath had said was that he would continue to be the head priest and attend to the religious duties along with his callings as chief minister of the state. But this is only for the consumption of the people. Otherwise, he is continuing as head priest of the temple and also in his post as chief minister.
However, one disturbing thing which is obvious is that the gulf between Hindus and Muslims is increasing further. There is an atmosphere of communal tension. More than half of UP is under the gaze of police because there is a riot-like situation in most places. So much so that the centre, despite being ruled by the BJP, has expressed anxiety over the situation.
Unfortunately, Adityanath is openly attending to his duties as mahant and also carries out what he considers is his task as chief minister. The situation is whimsical and the opposition parties have rightly criticised Adityanath for saffronising the office of chief minister. Apparently, the RSS backing is so strong that the chief minister could get away with what is parochial and partisan.
But this should not raise eyebrows. We all know that Adityanath’s appointment as UP chief minister came as a surprise to political observers. During the UP campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the main campaigner, largely concentrated on the agenda of development. This was true despite his attempts, halfway through the election, to consolidate the Hindu vote through the use of communal speeches and words. Nor was there any major communal incident or riot, as happened prior to the 2014 national elections. But then what had become clear was that even if the BJP were to bring in development in UP as promised, the path to winning the 2019 general elections will be through communal polarisation.
The chief minister should be attending to the immediate problems facing the state like the deaths at the Gorakhpur hospital and the burning issue of the Banaras Hindu University where the students have been agitating. The recent issue about the Taj Mahal, which is our heritage, having been removed from the list of UP tourism attractions has added to the chapter of controversies.
We have the bitter experience of having part-time prime ministers. They embarrassed the party or a combination of parties and did little work when so many problems were awaiting solutions. This is what the BJP and chief minister Adityanath should remember because the party won the assembly polls on the promise of development. The greatest harm to the office of chief minister is that it is seen something like a temporary arrangement.
The UP chief minister staying away from his Lucknow office with all security to perform the rituals as the head priest for five days is a violation of the Supreme Court order stating that public money cannot be used for religious purposes. A public interest litigation should be pursued to protest against the loss it has caused to the concept of democracy. Even otherwise, the larger question that needs an answer is whether Adityanath is a mahant first or the CM.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2017.