To allay apprehensions about Ram Rajya, he has explained its meaning, to wit, ‘It’s a place where there is no discrimination, no sorrow, no poverty
— By Dr R. Neerunjun Gopee
If Uttar Pradesh were a country, it would be the fifth most populous country in the world. With a population of about 220 million, it is next only to China, India, the US, and Indonesia, and it has an area of about 100,000 square miles: compare that with the 720 square miles of Mauritius!
That is the state of which Yogi Adityanath is Chief Minister, since March 18 this year, after State Assembly elections, held from 11 February to 8 March 2017 in seven phases (voter turnout of 61.04% compared to 59.40% in the previous election), which saw the landslide victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party at 325 seats out of the total of 403. A significant feature of this election was that there was no chief ministerial candidate projected before the election. It was only after this unprecedented win that Yogiji was chosen to lead his state, being himself a five-time parliamentarian from his district Gorakhpur.
He was here as an honoured guest of the Republic of Mauritius on the occasion of Aapravasi Ghat day on November 2, accompanied by Minister Giriraj Singh. Before his arrival, so-called ‘controversies’ were raised by MP Shakeel Mohamed in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, with a request that he should not be allowed to come. Rightly, this request was not entertained. In a letter to the Prime Minister and available on Facebook, Indian journalist Shantanu Gupta, who has written a biography of Yogiji, has refuted point by point the issues raised in the MP’s letter, and it includes a section about what Muslims in his state think of Yogiji.
The only glitch in this visit was the inversion of the Indian national flag during a signing ceremony, most likely an inadvertent lapse for which an official apology has already been conveyed. It was certainly not, neither meant to be, an apmaan (disrespect) as a news channel back in India portrayed this.
As the Tirukkural advises, before you judge a person, first weigh his bad points, then his good points, then only you come to a conclusion. So let us put the fake news aside, and concentrate on what’s essential. Yogi Adityanath has been in power only seven months, and as Indian analysts have pointed out, nobody should expect that in a few months he can resolve the State’s multifarious and complex problems that have been festering since the time of Independence 70 years ago. To be fair, let the call be taken after his mandate is over in five years. Meanwhile, with his reputation as a workaholic, he has taken a commitment to efficiency in public services, schools, hospitals, administration departments, to fight against corruption across the board, demanding high standards from officials, and has downsized overstaffed lazy municipal services. That’s for a start.
In an interview to the Economic Times on October 29, he has stated that his agenda of governance is development, that his ‘resolve is to work for the development of the state and the welfare of the people’, respecting their sentiments, and tackling the ‘challenges peculiar to this state’. Such as those put up by his opponents, ‘who will conspire, create useless controversies and obstruct the working of government… following a policy of appeasement.’ (italics added) He has, therefore, ‘put an end to the policy of divide and rule and appeasement that was followed in the state for the last 25 years. There is no room for a sectarian agenda or for any divisive politics. (He has) framed economic policies for every section of the society, from farmers to women and to students’. He intends to make Uttar Pradesh a high tourism destination state, believing that the number of tourists can be increased tenfold.
This will give a boost to employment generation in the state. From that perspective, he explained that there was no controversy around the Taj Mahal. Rather, it was a misunderstanding. As he said, ‘when the tourism department came up with its book highlighting the work done in the Ramayana, Krishna and Buddha circuits, some people created a controversy by saying that reference to the Taj Mahal was removed. Taj Mahal didn’t disappear. Nothing of that sort happened. The Taj Mahal was never part of the Ramayana, Krishna and Buddha circuits.
‘But a senseless controversy was raked up by linking it to the Taj Mahal. Under heritage tourism, the government has allocated Rs 370 crore for the development of the Taj Mahal and Agra. For us, the Taj Mahal is an important destination and place in terms of heritage tourism’.
Further, to allay apprehensions about his talk of ushering Ram Rajya, he explained its meaning, to wit, ‘It’s a place where there is no discrimination, no sorrow, no poverty, where people love each other, there is no place for envy… And we are working towards making the dream of Ram Rajya come true. It’s an ideal state, a state which works for the welfare of the people. Even Gandhiji has called such a state Ram Rajya. For villages that haven’t had electricity since Independence, lighting a bulb is Ram Rajya.’ So too is ‘feeding poor, removing poverty and giving jobs.’
He seems to be putting into practice the BJP brand of ‘positive secularism’ which is, ‘Justice for all, appeasement of none’ as pointed out by Sudheendra Kulkarni in a brief on Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India, in the Special Issue of India Today in September last.
Interested readers may read the complete interview of Yogi Adityanath in the Economic Times.
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Visit to Ramayana Centre, Union Park
On Friday November 3, Ramayana Centre was honoured and privileged to welcome Yogi Adityanath, fulfilling a wish of the devotees most unexpectedly. As a matter of fact, he had been invited for the inauguration of the Ram Mandir in August to coincide with Tulsi Jayanti celebrations, but unfortunately he had to decline because of ‘administrative exigencies’ as he put it in his reply to the invitation. That his official visit provided an opportunity for him to give his blessings to the Ramayana Centre was indeed a divine coincidence, as the President of Ramayana Centre Shri Rajendra Arun said in his welcome address after having accompanied Yogiji along with the other guests to perform prayers inside the Ram Mandir.
When Minister Giriraj Singh was requested to say a few words, he said that he was humbled in the presence of Yogiji, and would rather listen and let the latter speak – ‘not as a politician, not as a Chief Minister’, but as a Yogi. And this is exactly what the revered Chief Guest did. He talked about Bhagavan Shri Ram as the most exalted human being, Maryada Purushottam, and about the Deepavali Celebrations held in Ayodhya this year, when 173,000 diyas were lit on the banks of the river Saryu, recounting the legend associated with this river in the Ramayana. He also said that after a lapse of many years, the tradition of daily Ram Leela was being reintroduced in Ayodhya.
Furthermore, he mentioned the performance during Deepavali by two invited groups, one from Sri Lanka and the other from Indonesia which has the world’s largest Muslim population. When the performers were asked about their tradition of Ramayana performance, they replied that ‘our religion may be Islam, but Ramayana is our heritage.’ They were echoing what President Sukarno told Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru when he was visiting Indonesia, and ballets based on the Mahabharata and Ramayana were performed. Apparently, when Nehru asked him whether this was real or for show only, Sukarno had replied, ‘We have changed our religion, but we have not changed our forefathers.’ Those who raise ‘controversies’ surely have something to learn here?
Yogi Adityanath took a commitment to send delegates to major events that take place at Ramayana Centre, provided sufficient advance notice was given. Ever on the move, he did not stay on to partake of the refreshments, but his presence amongst us and his enlightening speech will ever be remembered with affection and gratitude.
* Published in print edition on 10 November 2017