STORY: India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced Yogi Adityanath, who has been accused of inciting violence against the Muslim minority, as the next chief of northern Uttar Pradesh state on Saturday (March 18) after the party won a landslide victory last week.
Adityanath’s appointment to lead India’s most populous state was denounced by opposition party members.
But officials of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party said Adityanath, who will take charge on Sunday (March 19), was the appropriate leader for the state.
Information and broadcasting minister, Venkaiah Naidu, announced the decision following a meeting with senior party leaders.
“When people heard the proposal of Yogi’s name, everyone stood together and said we all give support to this proposal,” said Naidu.
Modi’s BJP won control of the state a week ago, earning the biggest majority there for any party since 1977, after the Prime Minister pitched himself as a man on the side of the poor.
The win has raised the prospect of Modi’s re-election in general elections in 2019.
But Manish Tewari, senior leader at the Congress party, tweeted that Adityanath’s appointment was a “harbinger to greater polarisation.”
Adityanath, 44, is the head priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt, a Hindu temple in eastern Uttar Pradesh, and a fifth-time lawmaker in the Indian parliament.
He has supported strong laws for cow protection, and also said minority groups that oppose yoga should either leave the country or drown themselves in the sea.
Adityanath also formally met Uttar Pradesh Governor, Ram Naik, and staked claim to form the next government.
“With the slogan of ‘development for all by all’ (Sabka sath sabka vikas), we will try to establish good governance and development in Uttar Pradesh. I am grateful to Governor who invited me to form the government,” said Adityanath.
Adityanath has also been accused of making inflammatory speeches during the campaign in Uttar Pradesh, where Modi’s party didn’t field a single candidate from the minority Muslim population.
The swearing-in ceremony would take place on Sunday and Modi is scheduled to attend the event.
Federal Interior minister Rajnath Singh, telecom minister Manoj Sinha and BJP state president Keshav Prasad Maurya had also been seen as contenders for the post of chief minister.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Trivendra Singh Rawat also took oath as the new chief of northern Uttarakhand province.
Rawat was sworn-in as the new chief along with other ministers, including Satpal Maharaj, Madan Kaushik, Harak Singh Rawat, Arvind Pandey, Subodh Uniyal, Yashpal Arya and Prakash Pant.
BJP now heads the government in states where more than half of Indians live, while the Congress party, which has ruled India for most of the 70 years since independence, leads in regions covering less than 8 percent of the population.
Success will increase the pressure on Modi to provide for an increasingly aspirational nation of 1.3 billion people, half of whom are aged 25 or under.