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Harvard students get a lesson on Yogi Adityanath, biographer Shantanu Gupta tells them how he’s different from his predecessors

Students from Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School and Harvard Education School joined the discussion on Yogi Adityanath with his biographer Shantanu Gupta

During the three weeks of the book tour of two bestseller titles on Yogi Adityanath, author Shantanu Gupta had an engaging discussion with the students at Harvard at Harvard Square. Students from Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School and Harvard Education School joined the discussion. Scholars and students from other institutes in the Boston area also joined the discussion.

Discussion largely revolved around two prime topics – Nuances of transformation of Uttar Pradesh under UP CM Yogi Adityanath and what value a religious monk can add in the governance quotient of any state.

Professor Balram of Boston Center of Excellence asked about the future of democracies and role of a religious figures in a democracy. Is being a monk a liability or an asset to any democracy, he asked. To this Shantanu replied that though there is enough scholarship and literature around policy making, monitoring policy implementation, political campaigns etc, but democracies around the world are struggling to produce honest and non-corruptible political actors. There is no scholarship and literature around ways of producing honest leaders. Shantanu added that nations around the world need non-corruptible political actors and leaders but there is no established process or factory to produce such leaders.

Shantanu further added that in India ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’ (RSS) and ‘Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh’ (HSS) works towards ‘Development of a socially conscious human being’, who focuses on the concept of self-less service to the humanity. Being a saint or a monk also teaches renunciation and sacrifice for the larger humanitarian cause. And that can be a solution across democracies to produce good dedicated self-less leaders.

Yogi Adityanath took sanyas (monkhood) at the age of 22 years and later became member of parliament and then the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Two prime ministers of India from BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi come from rigorous RSS’ training of sacrifice and renunciation and it’s not coincidental that all three of them are known for their non-corruptibility and propriety.

When Surabhi Hodigere, MPP Candidate and Co-chair of India Caucus at Harvard Kennedy School asked Shantanu about Yogi Adityanath’s foremost quality of leadership that stands out, Shantanu replied that, when he interviewed Yogi Adityanath’s father, late Anand Singh Bisht in 2017 during writing his first book on Yogi Adityanath, Anand Ji said that as a forest officer, he was only able to make a small house in Panchur village and that’s the only asset he earned in his lifetime. But Anand ji added with pride that the biggest earning of his life, the biggest asset of his life is – His Honest Chief Minister son. And Yogi Adityanath’s honesty and non-corruptibility has become the signature element of his governance in the last 5 years.

Abhishek Singh of Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) asked Shantanu for quoting some examples of how personal non-corruptibility of a leader like Yogi Adityanath has a bearing on the governance culture of the state. On this, Shantanu quoted couple of examples from his latest book – The Monk Who Transferred Uttar Pradesh for the Harvard students:

Akhilesh & Mayawati ordered luxury cars from taxpayers’ money, Yogi used old car

Shantanu shared with the audience at Harvard Square that, the first file that came to Yogi Adityanath as he assumed office of Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh was about the purchase of a new luxury vehicle for his movement. His officers explained him that it is the precedent set by previous chief ministers to start their tenures with a new luxury car bought with taxpayers’ money.

Two of his predecessors—SP president Akhilesh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati—had given the go-ahead for new luxury cars for themselves as soon as they assumed office. The government had acquired a Land Cruiser for Rs 1 crore (the cost at that time) for Mayawati during her 2007-2012 tenure, while Akhilesh ordered two Mercedes Benz for himself worth Rs 6.9 crore of taxpayers’ money.

Yogi Adityanath had outrightly rejected the proposal of the estate department to purchase two Mercedes Benz SUVs for him and his fleet. Yogi cancelled the file at the first go and asked his officers to use the five-year-old vehicle used by his predecessor. He just requested for a small addition to the old vehicle—to add a saffron cover to his seat. For him, saffron denotes renunciation or disinterestedness, which represents his idea of politics—to be indifferent to material gains and completely dedicate himself to his work.

In contrast, Akhilesh Yadav, Yogi’s predecessor in Uttar Pradesh tried to do a life-time personal wealth planning while being the CM of the state. In 2016, Akhilesh Yadav passed a law in Uttar Pradesh’s state assembly for providing lifetime housing to former chief ministers. Fortunately, in 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) struck down the law brought by Akhilesh Yadav and he had to vacate the government residence. Even while vacating the government residence, Akhilesh Yadav brought a disgrace to the position of ex-Chief Minister as he left the government house allotted to him in a mess—with a damaged pool and missing taps.

How Yogi made UP ministers to pay their income tax like any citizen

Shantanu further told the gathering that in 1981, V P Singh, when he was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, enacted a law in UP, that ensures that the state’s chief minister and ministers don’t pay any income tax themselves. As per the 1981 Act, the income tax of all the UP ministers was paid by the UP government, as a perk of being a minister.

When Yogi assumed office in UP, this 40 year practice of not paying taxes was continuing. It is noteworthy that Ex-CM from BSP, Mayawati, is worth Rs 111 crore as per her affidavit for the Rajya Sabha polls in 2012 and Ex-CM from SP Akhilesh Yadav, owns assets worth over Rs 37 crore together with his wife Dimple, according to the affidavit filed for the recent Lok Sabha polls. But neither Akhilesh nor Mayawati, bothered about UP’s government treasury. Yogi Adityanath believed that when common man pays income tax and contributes in the national development, why not the Chief Minister and ministers of UP? Yogi government has decided that ministers will start paying their own income tax, ending a four-decade-old practice of the state exchequer shelling out the amount annually for the UP ministers’ income taxes.

Shantanu concluded that how presence of a saint at the highest office in Uttar Pradesh has brought wide ranging changes in the way Uttar Pradesh has been governed from decades.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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