As Hindutva hardliner Yogi Adityanath was set to assume the reins of UP, Congress leader Veerappa Moily called it the "biggest assault" on secularism, but the party's official reaction was tempered with caution as it said it will act as "watchdog of people's interest".
The BJP, however, stood behind the Yogi, notwithstanding his strident pro-Hindutva credentials, insisting "he stands for development".
"It is a big assault on secularism in the country. Maybe, the BJP or RSS would like to endorse their cause of Hinduism. India is not Hinduism. Hinduism is not India. "India is built above castes and religions and 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' (the world is one family) is the very foundation of our secular society. It is the biggest assault ever done on secularism," Moily said.
Congress incharge of communications department Randeep Surjewala said, "Congress Party will continue to act as watchdog of people's interests and play a constructive role in progress of the state of UP."
Maintaining that the prerogative of choosing a chief minister rested with the ruling party, Surjewala said, "Excessive delay in arriving at a decision as also the compulsion to create two posts of deputy CMs reflects a bitter conflict to share spoils of power despite overwhelming majority of over 300 MLA's."
Notwithstanding the Hindutva rabble rouser image of the 44-year-old 5-time MP from Gorakhpur, BJP spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh said, "That image may be with media but he has been elected again and again. He stands for development and that is the agenda we have got and we will will stick to the agenda."
Several other leaders said Adityanath will take the state on the development path and make it 'Uttam Pradesh' (best state).
"New dimensions of development will be established in the state under him," party general secretary Bhupendra Yadav said.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said UP will benefit a lot from his "competent leadership" and will soon become 'Uttam Pradesh'. "Every citizen of the state will benefit from Adityanath's philosophy of people's welfare and taking everybody along. Development of all will be done," Chouhan tweeted.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the lone Muslim minister in the Narendra Modi government, defended BJP's choice of Adityanath as the next UP chief minister, saying he will work for the party's "inclusive growth" agenda. "I congratulate him. He has been in public life for a long time. He will realise the Prime Minister's commitment of inclusive growth in Uttar Pradesh. Definitely, he will prove best chief minister of the state," Naqvi told PTI.
Rejecting suggestions that he was a Hindu hardliner, Naqvi said Adityanath was a "hardline leader of inclusive development" who will prove political pundits and analysts who have apprehensions about him "wrong".
Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agrawal reacted cautiously to the Yogi's elevation. "I congratulate him on his election. We will wait and watch for six months. We hope he will change his thinking and desist from creating a divide between Hindus and Muslims. If he does, we will go among the people and oppose him," he said.
CPI-M's Brinda Karat termed Adityanath's election as part of "RSS agenda". "It is clearly the RSS agenda and UP is the new experimental field for it. Since it is the victory of RSS (in UP elections), it has chosen the CM. "This gentleman has a criminal record. Several charges like rioting and more serious offences are against him in various courts in UP. That's the issue. Then why this rhetoric of ending criminalisation," she said, apparently referring to the BJP's criticism of the erstwhile Samajwadi Party government over alleged poor law and order.