[While all the rosy claims in favour of the EVMs, in the article at
sl. no. I below, may just not hold, I, for one, do consider that under
Indian circumstances the EVMs are decidedly a significant improvement
over the earlier ballot boxes.
But then, having already given an undertaking before the Supreme
Court, given the misgivings and apprehensions as regards the EVMs, the
EC must ensure that the VVPAT system is fully implemented at least by
the next general election in 2019.
Intriguingly enough, the Union Government is apparently holding back
the required funds to sabotage the process, as the report at sl. II
below makes out.]
Without EVMs, Maya may have got fewer votes
March 19, 2017, 2:24 AM IST SA Aiyar in Swaminomics | India | TOI
Mayawati says rigged electronic voting machines (EVMs) caused her
massive defeat in the UP election. The Election Commission says EVMs
are tamper-proof. A new Brookings research study by Shamika Ravi,
Sisir Debnath and Mudit Kapoor goes much further. It shows that EVMs
have hugely reduced rigging and crime rates, while improving the
participation of vulnerable groups.
In the late 1980s, booth-capturing was common, especially in north
India. Armed gangs seized booths and stuffed ballot boxes. Presiding
officers were so intimidated by gangs that they feared even reporting
a capture. The ruling party manipulated the polling process and police
deployment to aid its own gangs. This threatened the very fundamentals
In 1991, T N Seshan became Election Commissioner. He declared he would
henceforth control police deployment and the phasing of polls. He
brought in para-military forces and officials from outside states to
ensure fair polling.
These steps towards clean elections were followed by the introduction
of EVMs in 1998 in 16 constituencies as an experiment. EVM use was
gradually extended to more and more states, and finally became the
national norm after 2002.
EVMs run on alkaline batteries and so are not vulnerable to power
cuts. They are designed to register a maximum of five votes per
minute. This means it will take far longer for booth capturers to
stuff EVMs than traditional ballot boxes, increasing the time for an
alarm to be sounded. EVMs also have a button which, when pressed,
stops all electronic voting. If a booth capture is attempted, the
presiding officer can press this button and make electronic stuffing
FAIR OR FOUL? Studies show that EVMs have helped cleanse politics, cut
crime, and embolden vulnerable groups to vote.
These features, along with the spread of CCTV cameras and cellphones,
made successful booth capture almost impossible. The need for
repolling in violence-affected booths has fallen dramatically.
EVMs were first introduced only in some constituencies while others
had paper ballots, so the researchers could compare outcomes in the
two sorts of voting. The most striking outcome was a fall of 3.5% in
recorded voter turnout in EVM constituencies compared with
conventional ones, evidence of reduced stuffing. The fall was sharpest
in the most gang-ridden, misgoverned states of north India.
A welcome though unexpected outcome was a sharp fall in the overall
crime rate, especially of murder and rape, after EVMs were introduced.
The effect was greatest in the gang-ridden states. Earlier, all
parties needed gangs to do their dirty work, and the protection they
extended to such gangs naturally led to more crime. But EVMs reduced
the political need for, and hence protection given to, such gangs. So,
the impact of EVMs went far beyond elections to public safety and
reduced criminality, a huge bonus.
The researchers also analysed post-poll surveys done before counting
began, to capture voter views on security in voting. In one CSDS
survey, more than 96% of people said the new system was better.
Vulnerable groups — Dalits, tribals and women — said they felt much
safer and more emboldened to come out and vote after the introduction
of EVMs. The power of gangs and dominant castes to intimidate such
groups had fallen, a welcome blow for greater, fairer participation.
When paper ballots were used, some were rejected for faulty filling or
incompleteness. This hurt poor illiterates, who were most likely to
bungle their ballots. EVMs have ended the problem of rejected and
Some other claims made by the researchers sound a bit of a stretch,
and may require further research for confirmation. For instance, they
find that the likelihood of an incumbent being re-elected fell after
EVMs were introduced. Does this really prove that, before EVMs, chief
ministers were better able to control booth capturing and improve
their chances of re-election? More rigorous research is required to
The researchers also find a correlation between the use of EVMs and
increased electricity supply in subsequent years. This too may require
further confirmatory research.
***There remain legitimate fears that hackers can get into voting
systems and manipulate them. No evidence of such manipulation has come
to light, in India or any other countries using electronic voting. But
eternal vigilance is needed on this front. The Election Commission of
India has promised to introduce a paper trail for EVMs by 2019,
enabling it to check whether any electronic manipulation has
In sum, EVMs deserve three cheers for reducing ballot stuffing and
crime rates, and improving minority participation in voting. Without
EVMs, Mayawati may have got fewer votes, not more.
(The writer’s new book ‘From Narasimha Rao to Narendra Modi’ is being
published by Times Books)
Letters for 2 years, SOS to PM, Election Commission still awaits EVM
VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM, which
can be shown to the voter to dispel any doubts.
Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | Published:March 19, 2017 5:41 am
***IN A letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi four months ago, the
Election Commission sought urgent release of funds to procure enough
Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines to cover all polling
stations ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The EC has
sent over 10 reminders to the government on the matter, since June
2014, and the letter to Modi by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim
Zaidi, on October 25, 2016, was an SOS of sorts. The CEC very rarely
writes directly to the PM, with its communication to the government on
electoral matters normally limited to Law and Home ministries.***
[Video: EVM Issue: Machines Can’t Be Tampered With, Says Former
Advisor To Election Commission]
Several parties, including the BSP, Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi
Party, have raised doubts about tampering of EVMs following the Uttar
Pradesh and Uttarakhand results. Before the 2014 general elections,
the BJP had talked of EVM tampering on many occasions.
VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM, which
can be shown to the voter to dispel any doubts. This printout is then
deposited in a box and can be used to resolve any dispute regarding
the election. In 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered the EC to
implement the VVPAT system in a phased manner, and the commission had
committed to have it in place by the time of the 2019 general
The EC has been writing to the Law Ministry (its parent ministry) for
funds to purchase approximately 16 lakh VVPATs, for which it needs Rs
In his letter to Modi, Zaidi wrote, “I’m writing to draw your kind
attention to the crisis that may occur during the next General
Election to Lok Sabha in 2019, if required numbers of replacement
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and new Voter Verified Paper Audit
Trail (VVPAT) are not produced in time by Bharat Electronics Limited
(BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), the two
He further wrote, “I would like to bring to your notice that
Commission submitted its first proposal to the government of India in
Ministry of Law & Justice on 16th June, 2014 for the required budget
and sanction for EVMs and VVPATs and has pursued the matter
continuously since then.
“There are already two contempt petitions against me and the
Commission being heard by Hon’ble Supreme Court for not deploying
VVPATs in adequate number. The production of VVPAT is held up for want
of sanction of funds. Hence I would request your good self to kindly
look into the matter and advise concerned ministries for release of
necessary funds & sanctions for VVPAT most urgently.”
The Sunday Express has learnt that on July 20, 2016, the Union Cabinet
had at a meeting considered the procurement of VVPATs, but it was
decided that the EC should be asked to explore the feasibility of
roping in private manufacturers as BEL and ECIL have limited capacity.
The EC later turned down the suggestion citing “sensitivity of the
job”. In December 2016, the poll panel recommended two other PSUs,
namely Indian Telecom Industry in Bangalore and Central Electronics
limited in Ghaziabad, to enhance production capacity.
On January 10, 2017, Zaidi wrote to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad,
warning that if orders for VVPATs were not placed by February,
manufacturers would not be able to supply the machines by September
During a recent hearing on the contempt petition against the CEC on
the matter, the EC told the Supreme Court that it needed 30 months to
procure close to 16 lakh paper trail machines. This means that unless
it ropes in more manufacturers, the poll panel would miss the 2019
deadline to equip all polling stations with VVPATs.
Following the results in Uttar Pradesh, BSP chief Mayawati, who was
decimated in the elections, sought a repoll with paper ballots. AAP
leader Arvind Kejriwal later blamed his party’s loss in Punjab on EVM
tampering and asked the EC to tally his party’s EVM votes with the
VVPATs installed across 30 seats. The Congress’s losing Uttarakhand
CM, Harish Rawat, too has attributed the BJP’s victory to “EVM
chamatkar (EVM magic)”.
While the EC has rejected all such allegations and reaffirmed its
faith in EVMs, in an interview to NDTV news channel on Friday, Zaidi
acknowledged that VVPATs would be a “game changer”, which would
“double and treble the voter’s confidence in EVMs”.
The poll panel needs 16,15,066 VVPATs by 2019, when the Lok Sabha
elections would be held simultaneously with state elections in Andhra
Pradesh, Telangana, Sikkim, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and
Haryana. One machine costs Rs 19,650. The poll panel already has about
20,000 units and has placed order for another 67,000 VVPATs, of which
half have been delivered.
Peace Is Doable
[Maurya, a former VHP man, has 11 criminal cases against him,
including those of murder, rioting and arson.]
UP BJP chief under fire for ‘criminal record’
Uday Rana | TNN | Apr 9, 2016, 09.17 PM IST
MEERUT: The appointment of Phulpur MP Keshav Prasad Maurya as the
president of Uttar Pradesh unit of the BJP has ruffled many feathers
in the state politics. Both insiders and outsiders have raised
questions about his chequered past - ***Maurya, a former VHP man, has
11 criminal cases against him, including those of murder, rioting and
arson*** [emphasis added].
Party insiders feel his appointment may send a wrong message among
workers who have been asked to spread awareness among people about the
party’s fight against corruption. Maurya had himself declared the
criminal cases against him in his affidavit to the election commission
during the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, which he won from Phulpur.
Defending his position, Maurya told TOI, “Most of the cases against me
are related to protest movements that I led. Everything I did was for
the people. The cases against me are politically motivated. It doesn’t
matter what sections I was booked under. Besides, a lot of water has
flown in the Ganga since many of these cases were imposed against me.
In many cases, I have even received a clean chit.”
He added, “The reason I was booked under such harsh sections was
because the government of the day has always been our political
opponent. Some cases were filed against me when the SP was in power
and others when BSP was in power. We are more committed than ever to
end Gundaraj in UP. We will convert Uttar Pradesh into Uttam Pradesh.
We will do this by coming to power in 2017.”
The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Saturday asked the BJP
how they plan to end the Samawadi Party’s ‘Gundaraj’ in UP when their
own state president is accused of murder.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary and west UP in-charge
Naseeb Singh lashed out at the BJP’s choice, saying, “The PM had said
that he would remove all people with a criminal history but his
right-hand man and party president Amit Shah still has several serious
cases against him. It is no wonder that Shah chose a man with a
tainted record to lead the party in Uttar Pradesh. We can’t expect
good politics from such people.
It seems that in BJP, a bigger case against someone means that there
is a bigger chance of them succeeding. The fact that Keshav Prasad
Maurya also has the image of being a Hindutva hardliner proves that
BJP has no real issues to fight. They only want to polarize society in
their bid to grab power.”
The AAP also stepped up its attack on Maurya with party leader Ashish
Khetan tweeting, “New UP BJP chief has only 10 crime cases. Just one
murder. Rest are of conspiracy & riot. Venkaiah was right. Modi is
God’s gift to India.” Sudhir Bhardwaj, AAP state secretary, said,
“Before becoming PM, Narendra Modi talked of a crime-free India. They
say they want to end the SP’s Gundaraj in UP. However, now the BJP has
appointed a man accused of murder as their party chief in the state.”
Criminal record is like degree certificate in BJP’s political university !
Former party leader Prashant Bhushan also tweeted saying, “A Chaiwala
with 10 Criminal cases & serially corrupt CM/godfather of Reddy Bros
for UP & Karnataka chosen to head BJP!”
For many within the BJP, however, Maurya’s image of a Hindutva
firebrand works well for the party. “He is a street-fighter. He will
consolidate the Hindu vote for us. The problem with Laxmikant Bajpai,
his predecessor, was that he only gave statements from afar and never
came to the ground. For people in western UP, where communal clashes
are an everyday experience, a leader who is willing to take to the
streets will be a welcome change. He is the right choice for the
party,” said a source in the BJP.
Peace Is Doable
[Adityanath’s template of communalism is Gujarat. Cries of “UP will
also become Gujarat” are common at his rallies.]
Watch: UP CM Adityanath used communal poison to build his politics and
this documentary shows how
Adityanath has used a virulent brand of Hindutva to build his career.
Yesterday · 10:25 pm.
[Video: Not working]
After the Bharatiya Janata Party’s sweeping win in the Uttar Pradesh
Assembly elections, it has at last announced its chief minister: Yogi
Adityanath. Head of the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, Adityanath is
a Far Right leader known for building his politics on religious
How did Adityanath rise to become the chief minister of India’s most
populous state? This 2011 documentary by Rajiv Yadav, Shahanawaz Alam
and Lakshman Prashad explains Adityanath’s rise from a priest to one
of India’s most powerful politicians.
The film opens with a chilling threat. “If a single Hindu is killed,
we will not go to the authorities, but instead murder 10 people [in
return],” declaims Adityanath fiercely to a large crowd. “We will not
let any tazia processesions take palce inside Gorakhpur city. And
along with these tazias, we will also celebrate our Holi.”
Clearly, Adityanath is unconcerned with even sugar coating his
bigotry. His organisation the Hindu Yuva Vahini is driven by the same
ideology. At a Hindu Yuva Vahini meeting, speaking from the same stage
as Adityanath, a speaker digs even deeper into the violent pysche of
Hindutva: “At present what we need is to dig out the corpses of their
[Muslim] mothers and sisters and rape them.”
The Gujarat model
***Adityanath’s template of communalism is Gujarat. Cries of “UP will
also become Gujarat” are common at his rallies.*** [Emphasis added.]
Adityanath wants Muslims to bow to the Hindu majority. “If any
organisation refuses to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ or sing Vande
Mataram, like we smashed the Babri Masjid, we will smash it,” the
documentary shows Adityanath saying. A popular chant for BJP workers
in the area: “If you want to live in this area, you’ll have to take
the name of Yogi.”
The documentary points out that the Hindu Yuva Vahini was one of the
accused in the Mau communal riots of 2005. Adityanath was arrested for
causing communal violence – an act which led to more violence, with
his supports setting fire to a train.
His politics means he has changed the history of Gorakhpur to erase
all Muslim influences. Areas such as “Urdu Bazar” have been renamed to
“Hindi Bazar”, “Alinagar” to “Aryanagar” and “Miyan Bazar” to “Maya
Hindutvaising lower castes
The documentary points out that while he has used his position as the
head priest of the Gorakhnath temple, his ideology goes against the
historical message of its founder. The temple was founded as a
reaction to Brahmanism and once was a multi-faith institution which
included both lower caste Hindus and Muslims.
In 1952, the head priest of the temple, Digvijay fought elections on a
Hindu Mahasabha ticket, effectively ending Muslim participation at the
temple. The institution’s lower caste character in turn was used to
introduce Dalits to Hindutva.
In effect, the Gorakhnath temple, by marrying lower caste mobilisation
and Hindutva provided a template for the massive BJP win in the 2017
Peace Is Doable
[While Modi is rather well known for systematically sidelining people
who’re capable of taking their own stands, “good” or “evil”,
Adityanath very well belongs to that category.
That makes the “choice” all the more scary.
If Modi has opted to take such a high “risk”, even without any
apparent hint of compulsion, the “gain” that he’s driving at must be
that stunning big.]
A leaf from the illustrious life of the CM designate of Uttar Pradesh
ON 18/03/2017 BY APOORVANANDIN BAD IDEAS
Account of a ten year old story : Helps you understand the CM designate of UP
What happened in the eastern Uttar Pradesh town was not a conflict but
violence unleashed by MP Yogi Adityanath and his henchmen
If one tries to understand the developments in Gorakhpur and its
neighbouring areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh (Poorvanchal) from January
26 to 31, 2007 through the eyes of the print and electronic media, one
moves further away from the truth. It is a sordid story of a highly
communalised media conjuring up a riot, collaborating with BJP MP Yogi
Adityanath, a Bal Thackeray clone and heir to the Gorakhnath Peeth
operating from the Gorakhnath temple. Adityanath is a BJP MP for
‘technical’ reasons and cares a damn for the niceties of party
discipline because he knows that the party cannot dissociate itself
from him. Though he mocked the party by holding a Vishwa Hindu Maha
Sammelan at the same time as the BJP’s National Council meet in
Lucknow, the party did not mind. It had earlier swallowed the defeat
of its candidate in the Assembly election by Adityanath’s candidate.
One should know that he is a Thakur; and a Thakur heads the BJP now .
The Thakur spread across party lines ensures that Adityanath is
allowed to have his own way in his fiefdom, i.e. Poorvanchal. He makes
it a point to give calls for a Gorakhpur bandh whenever the chief
minister visits the town.
Poorvanchal mein rahan hai to Yogi-Yogi kahan hoga (You have to chant
Yogi’s name if you want to live in Poorvanchal) is a slogan
popularised by his gang. But how true is the claim of his hold on
Gorakhpur, leave alone Poorvanchal? He has lost all local elections
held recently in and around Gorakhpur, and could only manage to lure
the relatively respected Samajwadi Party (SP) member and mayoral
candidate Anju Chaudhary to his side.
Apparently, Chaudhary fell a victim to the myth spun around him during
the last 15 years. Adityanath has been called the Yuvak Hindu Samrat,
Narendra Modi of Poorvanchal, the premier of the Hindu Rashtra of
Poorvanchal. He has used the wealth of the Gorakhnath Temple to
sustain his army of lumpen youth. Adityanath has followed the rss
methodology in creating organisations with different names that he
calls cultural bodies. Among these are Hindu Yuva Vahini, Sri Ram
Shakti Prakoshtha, Gorakhnath Purvanchal Vikas Manch, Hindu Mahasabha
and Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh. Adityanath himself is the main functionary
of these unregistered outfits. He also controls much of the
functioning of the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagran Manch. He holds
his durbar in his temple that is attended by local police and
Adityanath has perfected his technique of manufacturing riots. An
insignificant incident like a Hindu’s clothes getting stained
accidentally by the paan spat by a Muslim is turned into an act of
humiliation of Hindus. A rape in which the victim is dalit and the
perpetrator Muslim is used to substantiate the allegation that
“Muslims rape our women” and all hell is let loose on the Muslims. The
last 11 years are witness to several such acts. No criminal case has
been registered against him except once in 1999 when a case was
registered against him in Maharajganj after the killing of the
official gunman accompanying sp leader Talat Aziz. The police and
administration have remained mute spectators with the political
leadership looking the other way. All this has given him an air of
invincibility. Muslims have been given to understand that neither the
Bahujan Samaj Party, nor the sp is willing to rein him in. Perhaps the
SP is seeking to counter Mayawati’s Brahmin card with its own Thakur
card by indulging him. The Congress is nowhere and also lacks a will
to take him on. All this leaves the Muslims here with no option but to
resign themselves to their fate.
This time, however, his plans went awry. On the night of January
26-27, Pankaj Rai, a history-sheeter, and his gang chased a dance
party performing at a marriage. They mingled with a Muharram
procession and the processionists thought that they were being
attacked. Suddenly a gunshot was heard, which the then administration
thinks was Rai’s act. As panic set in, more people — both Hindu and
Muslim — were beaten up and a young man, Raj Kumar Agrahari, was badly
injured and hospitalised. The District Magistrate (DM) was informed at
1.30am and he told officials to brief Adityanath that he should not
visit the site. Initially, the MP agreed. But as Agrahari died,
Adityanath declared that now he would go to the spot and seek revenge
for the killing of a Hindu by Muslims. He reached the spot with his
lumpen who destroyed a mazhar. He declared his resolve to ensure
justice for the Hindus, swords were flashed before the dm and senior
police officers. Short of policemen, the administration tried to
persuade the MP to vacate the place but he didn’t budge.
When the now-determined dm took the dagger away from a goon, they
charged towards him and demanded the dagger back. Upon this, the dm
ordered the police to disperse them by force. Suddenly the MP found
himself facing a situation that was not in the script. Afraid that the
lathis might find Adityanath, his well-wishers cried out for
compromise. The MP demanded that curfew be imposed and withdrew.
Though the dm didn’t think a curfew was required as the violence was
designed to disrupt Muharram, he agreed to the MP’s demand.
Later, however, Adityanath announced a torchlight procession. The
administration succeeded in preventing it from moving but it was
captured on camera and a non-procession was turned into one by the
willing media. Emboldened, he announced a Shraddhanjali Sabha the next
day at the town’s busiest crossroad. By this time, the dm had resolved
not to allow it any further as the police reinforcements were in. He
issued orders that no meeting was to be allowed and that any violator
was to be arrested. With unambiguous orders, the police moved.
Adityanath dismissed the warning as a hollow threat but landed in an
unforeseen situation. He and his ‘followers’ were taken to the police
line. Soon, a police van arrived and the detained people were asked to
board the jail-bound vehicle. Adityanath jumped into the bus,
declaring that he cannot leave his followers. To their surprise, the
bus started moving and they realised that they were in trouble. The
three-km journey to the jail took more than 90 minutes as his goons
pelted stones and every other means to block the van but to no avail.
For the first time in his life, Adityanath is jailed under Section
151A of the crpc only to find later that he has also been booked under
Sections 146, 147, 279, 506 of the Indian Penal Code for leading the
attack on the mazhar. On the strength of this fir, Adityanath is
remanded to 14-day judicial custody.
On January 29, his followers assembled at Gorakhnath Temple that falls
in an area where more than 50 percent of the population is Muslim.
They start hrowing stones and burning tyres in the direction of the
Muslim locality and on the road. But there is no retaliation from the
Dr Hari Om, the then dm in-charge, wishes to put it on record that not
a single incident of slogan-shouting or stone-pelting was resorted to
by Muslims. He wants the world to know that although much grieved by
the decision to impose curfew as it hampered Muharram, the Muslims,
led by the venerable Miyan saheb, assured the administration of all
cooperation as peace was more important and kept their word.
Meanwhile, the media kept screaming that Gorakhpur was burning, the
walls of the Gorakhnath Temple were demolished. Which, of course, was
a naked lie.
And all of a sudden, the dm was informed that he’s been shunted along
with the superintendent of police. As he moved away, Rashid, a Muslim
youth, was killed. It is a matter of discussion in Gorakhpur that it
was done by a Hindu Yuva Vahini man who injured himself to use it as a
cover. Newspapers flashed the pictures of the Yuva Vahini man’s
bandaged leg, obliterating the killing of Rashid altogether.
So where was the riot, as imagined by the interested media, asks Hari
Om. From January 27 to 29, Adityanath and his goons laid siege to
Gorakhpur without any provocation from Muslims. A mazhar was gutted,
masjids and shops of Muslims destroyed, government properties damaged
by the gangs, stone pelting on the police by his goons: do these make
a perfect riot? A riot involves some degree of involvement of two
warring groups. How is it that areas with substantial Muslim
population did not experience any untoward incident barring the
planned attacks of Adityanath’s gangs? Why did cm Mulayam Singh Yadav
remove the officers who jailed the BJP MP who was hell-bent on
destroying peace? Why did the officers’ successors go straight to
Adityanath for forgiveness? Why did the media fail to report the facts
Hari Om has one regret — that he had assured Muslims that by giving a
reprieve of 7-8 hours in the curfew on January 29, he would ensure
that the Muharram tradition was not disturbed. However, the moment he
was removed, Rashid was killed to celebrate it as Adityanath’s victory
and the curfew was extended. Tazias remained where they were. The
Muslims kept their word, he did not. This young officer has just one
question for his country: can a community feel at home where it is
prevented from even mourning by all kinds of machination? Can a
community celebrate its existence in a country where law-keepers look
over their shoulders when it is attacked? Such is the sad story of
Uttar Pradesh, the truth of one of the many riots that were not.
First published in Tehelka.com, Feb 17, 2007
Yogi Adityanath: The way of the sword and the monk’s cowl
How BJP’s Yogi Adityanath has used religious polarisation to trump
caste divide in Uttar Pradesh
Aman Sethi | Gorakhpur
March 18, 2017 Last Updated at 19:34 IST
Business Standard is republishing this April 2014 profile as the
Bharatiya Janata Party’s legislature has unanimously elected Yogi
Adityanath as its leader and the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
From 8 am to 10 am each morning, Yogi Adityanath, high priest of the
Gorakhnath mandir and Gorakhpur’s Member of Parliament from the
Bharatiya Janata Party since 1998, tends to his constituency from a
low desk in a spacious room in the administrative block of the
temple’s sprawling lands.
Assisting him is a team of scribes, seated cross-legged on the ground
before a set of ancient Devnagari-script typewriters, balanced on
bricks wrapped in old newspaper. Petitioners pass through a security
check, leave their shoes at the gate, and approach the priest with
folded hands and bowed heads.
Adityanath - short, stocky, and clad in saffron robes, thick
transparent plastic earrings, and vermillion socks - listens with the
fragile patience of a self-consciously busy man. “Write an
application,” he occasionally declares. The clerks nod dutifully and
slide another sheet of paper into the typewriter.
Recent reports describe Adityanath - a Hindutva hardliner, and prime
accused in Gorakhpur’s 2007 communal riots - as a key coordinator of
the BJP’s election strategy for Uttar Pradesh, the state with the most
Lok Sabha seats. He first won the Gorakhpur seat when 26-years-old;
now 42, he has fashioned himself as the BJP’s most recognised face in
east Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP has spoken of a wave in favour of their prime ministerial
candidate, Narendra Modi, but Lokniti-CSDS post-election surveys over
the past 15 years establish that a quarter to a third of the
electorate vote on the individual qualities of a candidate rather than
the party she represents, suggesting many seats could turn into
head-to-head contests between candidates with specific local
histories, rather than the competing narratives of Modi and Rahul
In 1999, Yogi Adityanath won Gorakhpur by the slimmest of margins -
7,339 votes; 10 years later in 2009, he romped home with a winning
margin of 2,20,000 votes. This year, locals are speculating on the
winning margin, rather than the possibility of his victory, despite no
particular signs of progress in this constituency.
Gorakhpur appears a melancholic border town on the Uttar Pradesh-Nepal
border, yet to overcome the loss of its fertiliser factory, shuttered
in 1990, its sugar mills that collapsed over the next decade, and its
children - claimed by the hundreds every year by Japanese
encephalitis. Male and female workforce participation is amongst the
lowest in the country and a little more than 70 per cent of households
still do not have an indoor toilet.
Over 15 years, Adityanath, an upper caste Kshatriya, has sunk deep
roots in Gorakhpur. His clerks resolve squabbles in city
neighbourhoods; his foot soldiers from the Hindu Yuva Vahini have been
criticised for engineering riots in the countryside. His inflammatory
anti-Muslim rhetoric has polarised eastern Uttar Pradesh, while his
position as the mahant of the Gorakhnath temple lends his
pronouncements an air of mystical profundity.
This election season, the BJP has publicly focused on the need for
good governance and development and steered clear of overt communal
and regional propaganda but on the ground, Modi is banking on regional
satraps like Adityanath to bring in the votes at all costs.
“We solve problems,” said Dwarika Tiwari, Adityanath’s head clerk,
gesturing to his typewriter, his telephone, and a stack of tattered
notebooks filled with telephone numbers gathered over decades, “We
write to the appropriate authorities, we telephone the superintendent
of police, we inform the district magistrate and tell him to
Jung Bahadur, a retired infantryman, has come on behalf of his
grandson, “Rajbir, my grandson ran away with a dhobi caste girl. Her
parents say she was kidnapped. He is in police detention.” Chandra
Prakash Gupta, dismissed from a private distillery eight years ago,
has been coming ever since in search of a job. Suresh Sharma, a
Gorakhpur resident now employed as an accountant in Chennai, has
dropped by to have his photograph taken with the yogi, “I go to the
BJP office in Chennai; it is good to have a photo to show them.”
No problem is too small for Adityanath’s attention, no trouble too
trifling. “We’ll do whatever is needed,” Tiwari said, as he churned
out the latest application on official MP letterheads, “This? This one
is for someone who urgently needs a train reservation using the MP
An MP is expected to legislate, hold the executive to account and
represent the interests of her constituency in Parliament. Adityanath,
for his part, has sponsored five Bills - there was one in 2009, asking
the Centre to pass a national law banning cow slaughter, another to
change the country’s name from “India that is Bharat” to “Bharat that
is Hindustan”, and a third banning forced religious conversions. He
has also called on the Allahabad High Court to set up a bench in
Gorakhpur, and for a uniform civil code.
Yet, in their constituencies back home, MPs aren’t judged by House
attendance, questions asked, or participation in debates, but on their
ability to leverage the state on behalf of their constituents.
Most MPs have neither the funds nor staff to implement big-ticket
projects that could ensure re-election.
For example, a representative can spend Rs 5 crore per year on her
constituency under the MP Local Area Development Scheme, which works
out to a total of Rs 400 crore a year for Uttar Pradesh’s 80 Lok Sabha
members; a minuscule sum compared with the state government’s budgeted
expenditure of Rs 221,201 crore for this year. This is where
Adityanath’s morning meetings prove crucial.
“Voters perceive the role of MPs as that of a problem solver,” said
Chakshu Roy of PRS Legislative Research, explaining MPs are often
voted for doing everything apart from their constitutionally mandated
jobs, “Voter expectations, therefore, align the incentive structure
for MPs to address constituency concerns at the cost of their
Further, before selling their message to their electorates,
prospective MPs must first convince their own parties of their
candidature - this makes the creation of a committed base and local
politics even more critical. Rajnath Singh could replace BJP stalwart
Lalji Tandon in Lucknow, but no one is likely to replace Adityanath in
“The public is deeply attached to my name, to my thought process, to
me,” said Adityanath in an interview soon after his durbar, “The
public wants their elected representative to be in touch with them.”
Through his daily hearings, he said, “I have a constant conversation
with the public about their personal problems, problems with the
administration, problems with a powerful oppressive person. That is
why they vote for me.”
Yet, any other candidate could arguably set up an equally efficient
grievances cell. Adityanath’s biggest asset, his critics said, is an
amorphous vigilante army of youth organised as the Hindu Yuva Vahini
and tasked with protecting the Hindu faith.
In 1999, Yogi Adityanath made front-page news as an MP. “BJP out to
protect trigger-happy MP” ran the second lead on the March 6 Lucknow
edition of The Times of India, detailing an extraordinary story that
began as a minor dispute over the fate of a peepul tree in a Muslim
graveyard in a faraway village, acquired increasingly communal
overtones, and ended with Adityanath desecrating the graveyard and his
supporters fatally shooting a 26-year-old policeman in the face.
“A pattern emerged,” said Manoj Singh, a senior journalist in
Gorakhpur, “Yogiji or his supporters would interfere in a
village-level fight between two communities and turn it into a big
case of Hinduism under threat.”
An anecdotal list of communal incidents compiled by Singh describes
the vigilante group’s involvement in at least 18 separate incidents of
communal violence since 1999. While the 2007 Gorakhpur riots, in which
a Hindu man was killed and hundreds of Muslim shops burnt, were widely
reported, the incomprehensible banality of minor incidents makes for
more chilling reading.
In 2002, for instance, Adityanath and his followers arrived at
Gorakhpur’s Turkmanpur locality and escalated a squabble between a
Hindu and Muslim over who spat paan on whom into a full-blown communal
confrontation in which stones were thrown, a street brawl erupted and
the police were called in.
Adityanath insists the Yuva Vahini is simply a cultural organisation.
“Our philosophy is to live and let live, but if someone puts their
hand on our throats, we have the right to remove that hand by force if
need be,” he said.
Yet, his critics, both inside and outside the BJP, said Adityanath’s
vigilante army was set up to build a power base and grassroots network
independent of the the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. BJP
leaders begged off from commenting on Adityanath or his politics. “To
be honest, I don’t have the time,” said Varun Gandhi, the BJP’s other
star campaigner in Uttar Pradesh, before hanging up.
His critics in the Congress were more forthcoming.
“Adityanath is undoubtedly a rabble rouser. His speeches are venomous
and vitriolic even in Parliament,” said Jairam Ramesh, the Congress
leader who most recently served as the Union minister for rural
development, “He is more of a politician than a sanyasi, peddling a
very destructive ideology of hate and prejudice.”
In the meantime, the Yuva Vahini has expanded its influence across the
region and its strategy of casting routine street fights as
ideological struggles is paying dividends.
Last month in Rasoolpur, a village in Azamgarh constituency, 100 km
south of Gorakhpur, a group of Hindu youth decided to build a brick
enclosure around a Hindu deity installed under a roadside tree. The
Muslims protested, a fight broke out and a young Muslim man was shot.
He survived but his friends grabbed Vijay Pratap Yadav, a father of
four and the brother of the sarpanch of Rasoolpur, and beat him to
Days after Yadav’s death, the local representative of the Hindu Vahini
contacted his elder brother, Uma Shankar, and asked him to join the
vigilantes. “Of course, something will have to be done,” Uma Shankar
said in a recent interview at his house, “The Muslims have terrorised
Despite the fact that Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi
Party, will contest from Azamgarh this time, Uma Shankar said the
family was switching allegiance from the Samajwadi Party, the party of
choice for most Yadavs, to the BJP.
“The Samajwadi Party thinks it wins because of the Muslims, so let’s
see what happens when the Yadavs leave it,” he said, “I think we will
join the Yuva Vahini, and if we do, we will bring another 50 men with
us for Yogiji.”
UTTAR PRADESH’S PRIESTLY POLITICIANS
With each generation, Gorakhpur’s mahants have harnessed the Goraknath
temple to consolidate their unchallenged hold on power
1967: The high priests of the Gorakhnath Mandir have played a role in
Eastern UP’s politics since Mahant Digvijai Nath represented the
constituency in the Lok Sabha from 1967 to 1971 from the Hindu
1984: Digvijaynath’s successor, Mahant Avaidyanath, sets up the Sri
Ramjanmabhoomi Mukti Yagna Samiti and leads a march from Sitarmahi,
Bihar, to Ayodhya to “liberate” the temple. Avaidyanath served as an
MLA from nearby Maniram from 1962 to 1980 and as Gorakhpur’s MP from
1989 to 1996, frequently using the Ram Janmabhoomi issue to garner
1992: Avaidyanath plays a crucial role in mobilising crowds around the
destruction of the Babri Masjid. On the eve of the demolition, the
mahant is spotted on the terraces of the ‘Ram Katha Kunj’, the
building facing the Mosque, among senior leaders such as L K Advani
and Ashok Singhal, according to court documents
1998: Avaidyanath retires from politics and his role as the head of
the Goraknath temple. His protege, Ajay Bisht - a disciple from
Uttrakhand who takes on the moniker Yogi Adityanath - wins the
Gorakhpur constituency at the age of 26
2014: With the Ramjanmabhoomi issue losing its appeal, Adityanath
recasts village level conflicts as religious ones and is set to win
his fourth full term
Peace Is Doable
[The sense of doom returns.
Of course, it was always there. But, at least to an extent, at the
back of the mind.
Now, it is right in front, staring hard into eyes.
“The chants of “Sabka saath sabka vikas” on Saturday gave away to
frenzied cries of “Jai Shree Ram” and “UP mein rahena hoga toh Yogi
Yogi kahena hoga” as the BJP’s Gorakhpur MP, Ajay Singh alias Yogi
Adityanath, known for his divisive past and politics, was anointed as
the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.”]
Focus on Mandir in run-up to 2019 general elections
THE ASIAN AGE. | SANJAY BASAK AND YOJNA GUSAI
Updated : Mar 19, 2017, 6:43 am IST
After demonetisation, Modi’s 2nd gamble ahead of 2019, claims BJP leader.
New Delhi: ***The chants of “Sabka saath sabka vikas” on Saturday
gave away to frenzied cries of “Jai Shree Ram” and “UP mein rahena
hoga toh Yogi Yogi kahena hoga” as the BJP’s Gorakhpur MP, Ajay Singh
alias Yogi Adityanath, known for his divisive past and politics, was
anointed as the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.*** [Emphasis
Sources said putting the Hindutva hawk and founder of the Hindu Yuva
Vahini at the helm of affairs in UP was a “conscious decision by the
BJP top brass in consultation with the RSS”. The decision to pick
Adityanath as chief minister was sealed at a meeting between BJP chief
Amit Shah and RSS’ second-in-command Bhaiyyaji Joshi in Mumbai last
The BJP now appears all set to step up the politics of polarisation
ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in order to consolidate the entire
Hindu votebank, cutting across caste dynamics, with Uttar Pradesh seen
as the gateway to New Delhi, some in the party feel. One of the main
things that Yogi Adityanath is expected to focus on is the
construction the Ram temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya.
Talking about the decision, a BJP leader said: “After demonetisation,
this is Modi’s second gamble before the 2019 elections.” It was,
however, also felt in some circles that Adityanath’s choice as chief
minister runs the risk of the resurrection of a decimated Opposition
in UP as well as across the country.
Moderates in the BJP who had been claiming that the UP mandate was a
vote for “development” appeared stunned and till the last moment some
top UP leaders kept saying that “it could not be true”.
The decision to make Adityanath chief minister was a closely guarded
secret and a number of other names, including that of Union minister
Manoj Sinha, were kept in circulation to keep everyone guessing.
A top Cabinet minister, speaking to this newspaper late on Friday
night, said: “It’s decided. Manoj Sinha will be the CM.” Unaware of
the developments behind closed doors, a confident and beaming Mr Sinha
went Saturday morning to temples in Varanasi to offer prayers. By the
afternoon he was snapping at the media, and accusing them of dragging
his name into the race “unnecessarily”.
To find out the reasons for this somewhat contentious decision, this
newspaper spoke to several senior BJP and RSS leaders. Sources said
even before the UP polls were under way, the RSS and BJP decided to
“seriously start the process of building the much-promised Ram Mandir
at Ayodhya if the BJP won the polls.” Both outfits felt the
construction of the “much-awaited Ram temple will galvanise the
majority of the Hindu community in the BJP’s favour before the 2019
general election.” For this, they needed a strong Hindutva icon and
therefore zeroed in on Adityanath.
Yet Yogi Adityanath was not given any clear indication during the
campaign, but merely told he “will have no reason to complain… and
be given a major responsibility if the party came to power in the
While the BJP refused to give any commitments, two top RSS leaders
reassured Adityanath that “his name for the CM’s post will be
seriously considered”. At the same time it was made clear he could be
made chief minister only if the BJP managed to come to power in the
state on its own. Adityanath apparently promised that the “Ram Mandir
will be a reality” if he was made CM,” sources said.
Before the UP elections, a conscious decision was taken to play to the
Hindu gallery when the BJP decided not to give tickets to a single
Muslim candidate, the sources said. The party’s historic victory, with
well over 300 seats in the 403-member Assembly, vindicated the party
strategy to stick to the Hindu votebank and “isolate” Muslims as far
as electoral politics was concerned.
In the entire UP campaign, the BJP kept two narratives running side by
side. One was of development while the other was of strident Hindutva.
It may be recalled that before the UP election, a survey was done of
party cadres to decide on the main electoral plank. A majority of BJP
workers and leaders said “Hindutva and nationalism” should be the main
planks in UP.
While speaking about development, top BJP leaders including the Prime
Minister touched on communally-sensitive issues during the campaign.
At the same time, Adityanath and other saffron fringe elements kept
their divisive rhetoric going.
Adityanath had earlier attacked Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan,
saying he “should remember that if people boycott his films, he would
also have to wander in the streets like a normal Muslim… These
people are speaking in the language of terrorists. I think there is no
difference between the language of Shah Rukh Khan and Hafiz Saeed”. He
had also earlier targeted Mother Teresa for “conspiring to
Peace Is Doable