In March of 2017 Narendra Modi appointed Yogi Adityanath Chief Minister (CM) of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. This controversial and “firebrand” leader has become known all over the world for his populist ideals and his anti-Muslim policies. He has convinced the Indian people that he will shoo away the Islamic bogeymen, and many have welcomed the plan with open arms. Yogi Adityanath practically defines the idea of an anti-Muslim populist and religious nationalist.
Until this appointment Modi had spent most of his time in power furthering a secular agenda. Most of India expected Manoj Sinha to fill the post, as he is currently a stable and balanced leader in India. Uttar Pradesh’s CM plays a very large and public role, and because of this profile a CM is typically seen as a possible future Prime Minister. So the choice of Adityanath was quite controversial and shocking to many. One of the biggest controversies surrounding Adityanath is his leadership of a vigilante organization, the Hindu Youth Brigade or Hindu Yuva Vahini, a group known to use extreme violence against Muslims who are believed to be disturbing Hindus.
One event did especially change Adityanath’s views— at least for a little while. After leading the Hindu Yuva Vahini into the city of Gorakhnath, a city with growing tensions between Muslims and Hindus, Adityanath was arrested for the trouble he caused. After this arrest Adityanath became much more tentative in his religious crusades, taking a much more behind the scenes approach to leading his Hindu nationalists and restraining himself from publicly insulting or disrespecting Muslims. But the Indian people still know that he oppposes Muslims and keeps the Hindu agenda, one of the thing that, sadly, has made Adityanath so likable to the Indian people. While he tried to take a more mainstream approach to his views, he is still seen as a far-right populist.
India’s history of religious violence and tension has been brought to the forefront of the country’s focus again with the choice of Adityanath. Many of Adityanath’s political objectives have been focused on turning India into “a Hindu rashtra or state”, saying “I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu rashtra.” Some of his policies obviously favor the Hindu religion, like in his ban on the consumption of beef. This nationalist personality and blunt oratory, like when he said that women are “weak, and liable to turn into ‘demons’ when they take on jobs or activities traditionally reserved for men”, has helped him win the favor of a large majority of the Indian people in past elections and further his populist agenda. However he did claim that he would not discriminate due to religion within his state government, but his past and his ambitions would say otherwise.
Adityanath is clearly an anti-Muslim populist. He blames Muslims for many issues that face India, like the lack of an adequate amount of jobs. He directs his anger towards a religious group, Muslims, a trademark characteristic of a populist. He evidently wants religious uniformity, another aspect of populist leadership. While much of India’s Hindu population loves Adityanath’s fiery rhetoric, the Muslims of India, who make up around a sixth of the population, worry about the capabilities of Adityanath. His ideas and the support he has in India is indicative of a global issue; all over the world people fear and hate Muslims because of the stigmas that have been created against them due to the many Islamic terrorist groups that have caused issues worldwide. In India with 1.3 billion people, 172 million of whom are Muslims, the potential for irresponsible words to spark communal violence is a very real threat.