Union minister Venkaiah Naidu on Monday dismissed claims that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was instrumental in Bharatiya Janata Party leader Adityanath’s appointment as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, PTI reported. Calling on Opposition parties to be “graceful in defeat” and respectful of the people’s mandate, he said BJP legislators had selected the candidate unanimously.

Naidu was the BJP’s central observer at Satuday’s meeting, during which legislators of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly had elected their state legislature party leader. “It is the legislators under the party’s Parliamentary Board who decide the leader. That is the system in the BJP. RSS never interferes or suggests any names [for the chief minister’s post],” Naidu told PTI.

On Saturday, Opposition parties had voiced their disapproval of the BJP’s decision to appoint the Gorakhpur MP as chief minister. Some reacted with caution, while others called it the “biggest assault” on secularism.

Congress leader Veerappa Moily had said, “Maybe the BJP or RSS would like to endorse their cause of Hinduism.” Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agrawal had said he hopes Adityanath “will change his thinking and desist from creating a divide between Hindus and Muslims”. Communist Party of India leader Brinda Karat had said making Adityanath the CM-designate was part of the “RSS agenda”.

The BJP, however, stood firmly behind its decision. Party spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh had said, “That image [of a saffron icon] may be with the media, but he has been elected again and again. He stands for development and that is the agenda we have got.”

Adityanath is known for his hardline Hindutva politics. In January, he had proposed a US-like immigration ban in India. The five-time MP had also spoken about the alleged exodus from Kairana and promised to deal with the issue “strictly” once the BJP was in power.