Firebrand BJP leader and seer Yogi Adityanath received a huge reward on Saturday for his hard work done during the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections after the BJP anointed him as the legislative party leader.
The five-time MP with Hindutva leanings was already being touted as a front-runner for the coveted CM post of the politically-prized state.
BJP's emphatic victory too suggested that the party may go with the popular sentiments and Yogi's name emerged as the crowd favourite during the legislative party meeting.
And it is fair to say that the Lok Sabha member from Gorakhpur has gradually become the mascot of the party's Hindutva-wrapped agenda of development.
When the BJP won 71 of the UP's 80 Lok Sabha seats, Adityanath emerged as its star campaigner.
Soon, Adityanath became the main campaigners against "Love Jihad" - a term given by rightwing outfits to describe what they believe was an Islamist strategy to seduce and convert Hindu women. Adityanath is also accused of delivering incendiary speeches in Uttar Pradesh.
Adityanath began his political career from UP's Purvanchal region in 1998. The seer, whose real name is Ajay Bisht, hails from Uttarakhand's Yamkeshwar town in Pauri Garhwal district. Yogi had completed BSc from the Garhwal University and soon after the graduation, he received 'diksha' from the head priest of Gorakhnath temple Mahant Avaidyanath.
Avaidyanath announced his retirement from active politics in 1998 and proposed Adityanath's name as his heir. In the same year, he became the youngest member to be elected to the 12th Lok Sabha at 26 years' age.
To assert his Hindutva leanings in the state politics, Adityanath also formed Hindu Yuva Vahini in 2002. The group has a strong presence in the eastern UP.
The priest-turned-politician is known for his provocative speeches and mass following across the state and never shies away from making controversial remarks, be it about Islam or Pakistan.
Clad in his trademark saffron-coloured robe, Aditayanth has been seeking greater power and is expected to give a push to BJP's Hindutva-wrapped agenda of development with the emergence of a separate powerbase for the party in eastern UP.
The diminutive shaven headed politician is known for his powerful oratory, though most of his speeches hinge on divisive lines and has been in the forefront in keeping the communal politics alive in the country.
Adityanath, who is a strong votary of construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, has rebelled against his party on several occasions, but because of the sway he holds over the 'Hindu' voters, the BJP apparently could not ignore his 'leadership qualities.'
Right from comparing Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed during the intolerance debate in 2015 to asking people to leave India if they don't practice Surya Namaskar in 2015, the Yogi has been at the centre of several controversies.
Playing the religious card during the pre-poll campaign, the firebrand leader had said that controversial issues like 'love jihad' and 'Kairana Hindu' exodus have always been on his party's agenda. He had also said that the hurdles on the path of construction of a grand Ram temple will be gradually removed and its construction will soon start in Ayodhya.
In 2005, Adityanath also allegedly led a purification drive which involved the conversion of Christians to Hinduism. In one such instance, 1,800 Christians were reportedly converted to Hinduism in the town of Etah in UP.
Important positions held by Yogi Adityanath
1998: Youngest member to be elected to the 12th Lok Sabha at 26 years' age
1998-99: Member of Committee on Food, Civil Supplies, Public Distribution and its Sub-Committee-B on Department of Sugar and Edible Oils; Member of Consultative Committee, Ministry of Home Affairs
1999: Re-elected to 13th Lok Sabha (2nd term) 1999-2000: Member, Committee on Food, Civil Supplies and Public Distribution; Member, Consultative Committee, Ministry of Home Affairs
2004: Re-elected to 14th Lok Sabha (3rd term) Member, Committee on Government Assurances; Member, Committee on External Affairs; Member, Consultative Committee, Ministry of Home Affairs
2009: Re-elected to 15th Lok Sabha (4th term); Member, Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture
2014: Re-elected to the 16th Lok Sabha (5th term) from Gorakhpur constituency (*Source- elections.in)
(With inputs from PTI)