Modi BJP picks firebrand to head India's Uttar Pradesh

Yogi Adityanath

Yogi Adityanath

In its choice of Trivendra Singh Rawat as Uttarakhand's chief minister, BJP has by all accounts, opted for a steady hand.

Adityanath has often fanned flames over religious conversions, inter-religion marriages, and has reportedly been arrested and charged with several crimes in the past including rioting, attempt to murder and trespassing on burial places.

Stating that in the previous year, over 60 people, mostly Muslims, had been killed in the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, Amnesty notes, the Election Commission called Adityanath's speech "had the effect of provoking feelings of enmity or hatred" and "aggravating the existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities".

The move came during the first meeting held by Adityanath with senior officials of all departments in Lok Bhawan.

A hard-line Hindu religious leader was sworn in on Sunday as the chief minister of India's most populous state.

Two deputy chief ministers may also be announced, according to News18.

This has meant however that a Hindu agenda has been stressed earlier in the life of the national BJP government than Modi seems to have intended.

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Analysts also see Mr Adityanath's appointment as a sign that the BJP would be pushing its Hindu nationalist agenda with greater fervour in the run-up to the 2019 general election, and as a test of Mr Modi's pledge of inclusive governance.

"Modi is saying India is a Hindu country and shall remain so", veteran journalist and commentator Shekhar Gupta told Reuters.

Deputy chief ministers of the state Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma were also present in the meeting.

In 2016, Amnesty says, Adityanath had demanded that "the family of a Muslim man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, who had been lynched for allegedly consuming beef should face criminal charges".

The Punjab cabinet on Saturday also made a decision to provide 33 percent reservation for women in all government jobs, including contractual appointments of the state government as chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh attempted to strike a balance between populism and reforms.

During rallies for state elections this winter, Adityanath's supporters often chanted for Hindu-centric rule and demanded that Muslims leave the country. He has run an activist and sometimes violent youth organisation, the Hindu Yuva Vahini and has been prominent in cow-protection and anti-beef eating campaigns. In 2015, he likened Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, a Muslim, to a terrorist. Adityanath, on the other hand, chose to speak his mind, so we know where he stands on issues such as nationalism, Islam, Pakistan and love jihad.

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