Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) greets Yogi Adityanath, the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, at his swearing-in ceremony in Lucknow, March 19, 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing party March 18 picked a controversial firebrand leader to head India's most populous state, where it won a landslide victory. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images) 

LUCKNOW — Hindu priest and firebrand leader of the Hindu-nationalist Hindutva movement Yogi Adityanath was sworn in March 19 as the new chief minister of a Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh.

Tens of thousands of supporters cheered as the 21st chief minister of the country's most populous state was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Ram Naik.

Phoolpur MP Keshav Prasad Maurya and Lucknow Mayor Dinesh Sharma were then sworn in as deputy chief ministers.

Twenty-two other cabinet ministers were sworn in. as well. Among the new ministers of state was Mohsin Raza, a BJP spokesperson and a former cricket player. 

The ceremony, which was held at the Smriti Upvan, was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, BJP veterans L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a Lucknow MP.

After taking the oath, Adityanath, who was dressed in his characteristic saffron robes, sought the blessings of Advani, Joshi and Rajnath Singh. 

Outgoing Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was also in attendance and before the swearing in ceremony, was socializing with BJP leaders.

The BJP swept to power in the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, decimating the opposition and winning 312 of the 403 seats. Another 13 seats were won by allies, and win has marked the return of the BJP to power in Uttar Pradesh after 14 long years.

Among the new cabinet ministers are BJP leaders Surya Pratap Sahi, Suresh Khanna, Satish Mahana, Rajesh Agarwal, Dharampal Singh, S.P. Singh Baghel and Ramapati Shastri.

Defectors from other parties who won on BJP ticket include Swamy Prasad Maurya, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Dara Singh Chauhan, Brajesh Pathak and Nand Gopal Nandi.

Meanwhile, BJP leader and Central Cabinet Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said that Adityanath, a Gorakhpur MP, would support development in Uttar Pradesh.

"I am confident Yogiji will soon become the face of development in Uttar Pradesh. He has been a fighter for people's cause. He has declared 'Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra' of the BJP manifesto is his agenda," Naidu wrote on Facebook.

"Unfortunate that some opponents, communalists are trying to portray him as a rubble-rouser and fringe personality. They should go through his parliamentary debates. Those reveal his seasoned thinking on various issues of governance," Naidu said. 

Describing Yogi Adityanath as a politician committed to helping the downtrodden, Naidu said it was "unfair" to attribute caste to him. "People of all communities are celebrating his appointment." 

The election of Adityanath, who has faced criminal charges including attempted murder, has raised fears of discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims. According to the New York Times, Adityananth has been accused of stoking “anti-Muslim sentiments” and has called for India to be a Hindu nation.

But in an apparent move to allay fears that he might discriminate against minorities, Adityanath promised that in in his government there would be no bias for or against anyone.

In his first press conference following his swearing-in, the Gorakhpur MP vowed to end Uttar Pradesh’s crime problem, and pledged to work for all sections without bias, saying he believed in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's slogan “sabka saath sabka vikas.”

Agriculture, he said, would be foundation of all development work in Uttar Pradesh. 

"Our government is fully committed to fulfill the promises," he said.

Calling the swearing in of a new BJP government a historic occasion, the chief minister spoke about BJP ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, and said that his government was committed to fulfilling his dream of antyodaya – providing food to the poorest people in India.

"We want to assure the people of UP that our government will take the state on the path of development and prosperity and would do everything that it takes to do so," the 44-year-old said. 

"We will adhere to the credo of 'development for all' initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the new chief minister said.

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