Yogi Adityanath was an unexpected pick by the Bharatiya Janata Party for the chief minister's post after the party scored a landslide win in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.
A poster boy for Hindutva, saffron-robed Adityanath was considered a rabble-rouser and often accused of making provocative remarks against Muslims.
This time round, his appointment as the CM wasn't much of a surprise.
During the assembly poll campaign, BJP bigwigs hailed the success of Adityanath-Narendra Modi ‘double-engine' government in the state over the past five years. And the CM tweeted a telling picture of Modi placing a hand over his shoulders.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah even said Adityanath needed to be back as CM in 2022 if the party sought to return to power at the Centre in 2024.
With the Bharatiya Janata Party return to power, the monk-politician has consolidated his place in the organisation.
Some observers predict an even bigger role for him the BJP in coming years, though Adityanath took pains in an address to the MLAs to thank Modi and Shah for their “guidance” during his first term, when he had no administrative experience.
On Friday, Adityanath, 48, was sworn in as chief minister, becoming the first CM in over three and a half decades to return to power in the state after completing a full five-year term.
Born Ajay Singh Bisht in Pauri Garhwal's Panchur (now Uttarakhand), on June 5, 1972, Adityanath left home in 1990 to join the campaign to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
He also became a disciple of Mahant Avaidyanath of the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur.
After Avaidyanath's death in 2014, he took over as the head of the Gorakhnath 'math', a post he still holds and makes frequent trip to the eastern UP town. In Gorakhpur, he founded his own band of volunteers, called the Hindu Yuva Vahini.
Adityanath went to school in his native village and later completed his bachelor's degree in Mathematics from Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University.
He entered politics on the directions of his guru in 1998 and at 28 became the youngest Lok Sabha member, winning from Gorakhpur. He went on the represent the parliamentary seat four more times till he became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh on March 19, 2017.
He was then elected to the state legislative council so that he could continue as the CM. In 2022, however, he fought and won the assembly election from Gorakhpur Urban constituency.
As CM, he took decisions that confirmed his image as a Hindutva mascot. Early in the first term, he banned illegal slaughterhouses and the state police cracked down on cow slaughter. But the menace of stray cattle created disquiet among farmers, presenting the Adityanath government with a new challenge.
His government brought an ordinance and later a bill against religious conversion through force or deceit, a move that also seemed to target interfaith marriages. Other BJP-ruled states followed the UP example, coming up with their versions of the law which generated much controversy.
In the run-up to the 2022 elections, he promised that the law would be made more stringent by Adityanath 2.0 if the party wins.
Adityanath has been blamed by some – and hailed by others – for adopting strong-arm tactics to fight crime.
“Bulldozers”, used to raze illegal buildings, figured repeatedly in campaign speeches by BJP leaders, while Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav derogatorily called Adityanath “Bulldozer Baba”, a sobriquet that the CM doesn't appear to mind.
Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) were crushed ruthlessly, and in a controversial move protesters asked to pay for damage to government property.
But the opposition slammed his government over its handling of law and order, alleging that it followed a policy of “fake encounters”. The state government has denied this, and also cited crime statistics to claim that it is doing much better on law and order than its predecessors.
The BJP government set up “anti-Romeo squads” to deter street-side harassment of women, but it came in for much flak from the opposition over the Hathras rape and murder in 2020 and the earlier Unnao rape case in which a party MLA was convicted.
The Lakhimpur Kheri violence that killed eight people during the farmers' agitation also led to an outrage.
The opposition also slammed him over the handling of the Covid crises, citing the bodies found floating in the Ganga during the second coronavirus wave. The state government found itself on the back foot as it countered the allegation that the corpses reflected bad pandemic management.
Adityanath was accused of making deliberate attempts to “polarise” the state during the 2022 election campaign. He talked of an 80-20 split of votes, which many thought referred to the Hindu-Muslim ratio in the state, even if the CM denied this.
In his speeches, he also claimed that people who say “abba jaan” benefitted during the Samajwadi Party's term in office, when there were power cuts on Diwali but uninterrupted electricity supply during Eid.
But he also spoke about his government's development agenda, its attempt to implement as best as possible the Centre's welfare schemes -- and many believe that this was a major factor in the BJP's victory.
The BJP-led coalition won 273 seats in a House of 403 members.