The ascension of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has made quite a news, with reactions pouring in from all quarters over how the BJP top brass could pick a firebrand Hindutva leader to lead the crucial state. Going by the Gorakhpur MP's track record of controversies, the apprehension about his performance in the days to come is not without a basis.
However, Adityanath's beginning was quite a moderate one and the supporters of the saffron party are of the opinion that the man will be different as the chief minister, stressing on development and not religious division. Senior BJP leader and central minister Venkaiah Naidu also said that unlike the popular perception, the new chief minister will prove himself as the face of UP's development and prove his critics wrong.
It is still not known which way Adityanath will eventually swerve, especially as the next Lok Sabha election approaches. But he can certainly take important lessons from some of his predecessors who have managed the state since Govind Ballabh Pant assumed the role of the big state's first CM. One cannot deny the fact that India's politics has changed in the last 65 years but for 44-year-old Adityanath to make a mark, there are enough references for him to look at.
Here is a look at some of the towering chief ministers that UP has had in the past and what the current CM, who took oath on Sunday (March 19), can learn from them:
Govind Ballabh Pant of Congress (1950-54): A renowned freedom fighter, Bharat Ratna Govind Ballabh Pant (1887-1961) was a figure eclipsed by the other towering personalities of Indian politics of his time. But his contribution to UP's overall life cannot be underestimated at all. Pant had served as the chief minister of the United Provinces before taking up the chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh on January 26, 1950, and continued in office till December 1954 before leaving for the Centre.
A man known for his moderate lifestyle, Pant had a mind of a great planner and his legacy in issues of development in mountain and other rural areas is remarkable. Pant's contribution towards abolishing the zamindari system and restoration of the honour of the rural communities and cultivators has been an unparallelled feat. The man was a right-winger but yet his rapport with Nehru did not come in the way of the state's development.
Dr Sampurnanand of Congress (1954-60): Also a freedom fighter who harboured great ambitions, Dr Sampurnanand served as UP's second chief minister. Adityanath would take confidence from the fact that it was during Sampurnand's chief ministership that the UP government had decided to ban cow slaughter following recommendations of an expert committee.
The Sampurnanand government didn't care for the objection raised by the then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who called it "a wrong step". This also proves that while we often brush only the BJP with colours of Hindu sentiments, the Congress in those days were not far off from such line of thinking despite having a West-educated liberal prime minister like Nehru at the helm.
The BJP camp will feel elated that a Congress government had done what they aim to do across the country today. But the Adityanath government should also keep in mind that India's democracy has deepened a lot since Sampurnanand's days. It will be interesting to see how Yogi Adityanath goes forward on the issue.
Sucheta Kriplani of Congress (1963-67): Also a renowned freedom fighter, Sucheta Kriplani became the first-ever woman chief minister in the country when she got an opportunity to take up the post amid a power struggle between Kamalapati Tripathi and CB Gupta. Kriplani was known for her administrative skills. One of the major highlights of her tenure was her adept handling of strikes by state employees that had gone on for 62 days. She did not surrender before the employees' demand and obliged only when they agreed on a compromise. Can Adityanath take a cue from her while dealing with his critics and opponents?
Chaudhary Charan Singh (1967-68, 1970): Chaudhary Charan Singh's name still becomes relevant when one analyses the politics of UP, especially the equation of the Jat votes. Singh, who had also been the prime minister of India, was the first non-Congress chief minister of UP and has a huge legacy. He played a major role in transforming the agricultural economy of north India after Independence as well as the politics of UP.
He was closely identified with India's peasantry, aspirations of the backward castes, and the intermediate social status between the elite and lower castes. He also wrote extensively, presenting a development strategy for the country that was different from the known paths of both Favian socialist Nehru and his populist socialist daughter, Indira Gandhi. Will Adityanath take a look at Singh's examples to leave a strong impact on UP's political economy?
Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna of the Congress (1973-75): HN Bahuguna, a freedom fighter and Gandhian, popularly known as 'Himalaya Putra' since he was born in Pauri Garhwal (in present-day Uttarakhand) was once the Brahmin face of the Congress.
The BJP also requires a reliable face from the community for the days to come and should take a lesson from the way the Congress treated the successors of HN Bahuguna – his son Vijay, daughter Rita and grandson Saket. HN Bahuguna's significance also lay in the fact that he presented himself as a reformist soon after taking over the post from rebel leader Kamalapati Tripathi.
He took action against one of his own ministers for owning land more than that permitted under the Ceilings Act and warned others as well. However, he had to ultimately surrender before legislators and ministers of his own party. Bahuguna's tendency to bank on local leaders also paved the way for Vishwanath Pratap Singh, the future chief minister of UP and also prime minister of India who would change the course of the country's politics forever despite serving a very short period in office in New Delhi, to rise. And Adityanath has a great similarity with HN Bahuguna for he also belongs to the same Pauri Garhwal district.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath can take one or another lesson from all of his predecessors named here. Now whether he really aspires to take UP to a new height or reduce everything to Ayodhya is what the experts will be closely observing.