New Delhi: Voting for the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in the spring of 2017 had entered the last phase. Two days ahead of the counting on March 12, Yogi Adityanath received a phone call from Sushma Swaraj. The then foreign minister informed the Gorakhpur MP that the Prime Minister's Office had refused permission for his travel abroad with a delegation on fellow parliamentarians.
This was perhaps the first indication 48 hours before the counting to Uttar Pradesh assembly polls were held in March 2017 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah had zeroed in on the head of the Gorakhpur Peeth to head the government if the party were to get majority.
In a free-wheeling interview to News18 Network Editor in Chief Rahul Joshi, Yogi Adityanath has narrated in detail the events leading to his nomination as the state chief minister after BJP won a mammoth three-fourth majority in the provincial elections.
“I was nowhere in line, neither did I keep myself in the race. I campaigned wherever the party sent me during UP elections. Around February 25, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj called me. She said, ‘Yogi ji a parliamentary delegation is visiting Port Louis, you should go’. I told her that I was not that interested and that I was involved in elections till March 6. She said, ‘You have to go after March 6 and we want you to lead this if you agree’. I said I will have time after March 6, so I can go,” Adityanath said.
Voting for UP elections ended on March 8, 2017 and the counting of votes was scheduled to be held on March 11.
“On March 8, I went to Delhi. My passport had already been sent. Around March 10, I was informed that the PMO has returned my passport and that I didn’t have to go. Since counting was to be held the next day, I took a flight for Gorakhpur and left. Sushma ji called me again and said that the PMO had returned my passport and that it was important for me to stay in UP for counting day. The BJP won with a huge mandate. March 13 was Holi and I stayed in Gorakhpur. After Holi, I went to Delhi on the 16th to attend the Parliamentary Party Meet. I met Amit Shah there. We had a normal discussion about the elections. He said, ‘Don't leave Delhi, we will talk’.”
Asked if Shah was dropping subtle hints on the party’s decision, Adityanath said it wasn’t clear at the time.
“I kept thinking that elections are over, we have got the results, then what does he want to discuss. On the 17th, I had a question in Parliament. After that, I took the afternoon flight and left for Gorakhpur. On 16th evening, I got a call from Amit Shah asking me ‘where are you’. I said I am in Gorakhpur. He asked me why I left when he had asked me to stay in Delhi. I said I came back to Gorakhpur since I had no work in Delhi. He said, ‘Come to Delhi. It is urgent and we need to talk’.”
Since there was no immediate train or flight available, Adityanath said a chartered plane was arranged for him the next morning.
“Amit Shah said, ‘I am sending you a chartered plane tomorrow morning. You come to Delhi by that and don't tell anybody about this’. I reached Delhi around 11am. Amit Shah said, ‘Take this flight and go to Lucknow because in the evening at 4pm, you will be chosen as leader of the elected MLAs. You have to take the oath tomorrow’,” Adityanath recounted.
The decision was announced on March 18 and Yogi Adityanath took oath as UP CM with Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma as deputies the next day. Within six months, Adityanath resigned as Gorakhpur MP and was elected unopposed to the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Parishad.