The Monk Who Became Chief Minister by Shantanu Gupta
Yogi Adityanath invokes curiosity at various levels. He is an unlikely candidate to be a politician or a Chief Minister of the most populous state of India. His saffron clothes and his string speeches present a unique combination of someone who is detached but not indifferent. So, his biography had to be an interesting pick to read. I also heard the author of The Monk Who Became Chief Minister – Shantanu Gupta speak at Goa Literature Festival. He had a tough task of answering many questions on behalf of the Yogi as if he was representing him.
Having said that, he left an impression that this is an authorized biography. But after reading it does not seem he met Yogi Adityanath for this biography. There is nothing that he heard directly from him. Most of the data has been picked up from the public domain. Mostly from newspapers and news websites. In his talk, he spoke about shortcomings of Yogi that were conspicuously missing in the book.
This biography of Yogi Adityanath is written in reverse chronological order. It begins with the swearing-in ceremony of the Monk who took over as Chief Minister. Shantanu Gupta then delves into the activities in the initial days of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister. He invited strong reactions from global media which I only see as a surprise at something unexpected. The author gives minute details of meetings the new Chief Minister held in his first few days. I think the journalist in him took over and it seems he was writing for a newspaper rather than a book.
I think to write a book, you need some distance from the subject, both temporal and spatial. The author was writing too close to the ascent of Yogi. So, many things mentioned in the book are irrelevant in less than a year.
Next part of the book Monk Who Became Chief Minister takes you back to the Yogi as a Parliamentarian. I wanted little more in this section, as Yogi had a long career as parliamentarian at a very young age. I am sure there are a lot of inspirational aspects hidden there, for youngsters who may want to choose politics as the career. Again, I read all that I had already read in newspapers.
The book then moves to his becoming a monk and then the head of Gorakshnath Math. Now, not many people know much about this Math, outside Gorakhpur. I wanted much more about the tradition of Nath Yogis and the relevance of being the head of the Math. I did learn that the guru of Yogi Adityanath held the Gorakhpur parliamentary seat before him and before him, his guru held it. So, the seat has essentially been with the Math for a very long time. Role of Gorakhnath Math in Ram Janambhumi issue also needs a deep diving.
I wanted an insight into why a young man who was studying Mathematics decided to join a monastic order. It does not look like his family was involved with the Math. Did he engage with the Math before joining it? It appears he was identified and pursued by his guru to join. What did he see in this young man that impressed him? What made Yogi Adityanath leave everything and join the Math even without informing his family? Some of these questions could have been answered.
Finally, the book goes to the village of Yogi Adityanath where his family continues to live. There are conversations with his parents and friends. There is some data about his childhood like which school & college he went to. But nothing that builds up the personality profile of the subject for the reader.
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Where this book The Monk Who Became Chief Minister does help is that it puts all that you can read about Yogi Adityanath in one place, especially the numbers. It is a book written in hurry and too close to a big event. I hope Shantanu Gupta would write another deep-dive biography of Yogi Adityanath and actually show us the extraordinary personality.
Take your call.
Other interesting biographies:
- Karmayogini – Life of Ahilyabai Holkar by Vijaya Jahagirdar
- Amma: Biography of Jayalalithaa by Vaasanthi
- Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay
- Strictly Personal – Manmohan & Gursharan by Daman Singh
- Behenji by Ajoy Bose