Need for course correction

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Need for course correction

Saturday, 05 January 2019 | Biswajeet Banerjee

Need for course correction

With the BJP raising aspirations through slogans like achche din, the people in UP have not seen much improvement in the promised quality of life. Yogi’s Ayodhya tilt isn’t working

The employees were at leisure in Jawahar Bhawan, the building in Lucknow housing over a dozen Government departments, when the other day discussions veered to the Congress’ performance in three States where Assembly election results were announced recently. They were seen animatedly analysing the figures of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where the Congress wrested power from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the  broader implications for the parliamentary election which is around the corner.

Expectedly, the discussion soon shifted to the BJP Government’s performance in Uttar Pradesh and the possible scenarios in the 2019 general election. Surprisingly, all of them unanimously felt that the Yogi Adityanath Government’s performance in the State was dismal. They were of the view that the Uttar Pradesh Government had inflicted more harm to the Government employees than doing any good. Some even believed that the Yogi Adityanath Government was more concerned about lord Ram, Ayodhya and the safety of the cow than party workers or the aam aadmi.

It was an amazing sight as none can even think of Government employees bashing the ruling party, that too during duty hours. Generally, State employees avoid discussing the functioning of the Government out of fear that someone might report them to their seniors or that they might earn the wrath of the establishment and its supporters. But the way these staffers continued with discussions reflected brewing resentment against the Government.

Is this rising discontent limited to Government employees? The answer is no. Even traders are angry because of the impractical way the Narendra Modi-led BJP Government implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST). There is even talk of people losing jobs due to demonetisation, during which 86 per cent of the Indian currency was culled in one go. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) in its recent report claimed that 3.5 million people lost jobs because of demonetisation. Not to mention the small traders who had to shut shop.

It would be wrong to say that the Government has not done anything for the people and the farmers. But the impact has clearly been diluted by pressing economic concerns.   The government has launched many people-welfare schemes as well as a minimum support price (MSP) to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices. Wheat and paddy purchase centres have been opened all across the State and a record purchase of food grains has been reported. This is the first time in the last 10 years that Uttar Pradesh has purchased over 45 lakh metric tonnes of wheat whereas the previous Government used to purchase only seven to eight lakh metric tonnes of wheat.

Nakal-viheen pariksha (cheating-free examination) conducted at basic, secondary and State university levels is another feather in the cap of the Yogi Government. Not just that, in a bid to establish a model for quality education, it also worked towards the introduction of NCERT courses at the secondary level. All of these could prove to be a defining moment for the education system in the State. One must also acknowledge the sincere efforts made by the Government to ensure doorstep health services. It launched a massive immunisation campaign to vaccinate over 86 lakh children up to 15 years  against encephalitis. The result is for everyone to see.  The number of encephalitis deaths has dropped dramatically. To cap it all, prices of essential commodities like pulses, rice and sugar, too, are under control.

Despite so many positives, why is it that the Yogi Government is facing flak? Is it because the ruling BJP, and the State Government in particular, has harped more on Hindutva? Has this been done on purpose because the BJP wants to capitalise on the support of the majority community as there is a thinking in the party that Muslims never vote for it, hence it is better to consolidate core votes than trying to affect an image change? Probably this is why Yogi Adityanath, who is the mahant of the prestigious Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, was appointed as the Chief Minister of the state.  Yogi is also a star campaigner of the ruling party and was given prominence after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah. He campaigned aggressively in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. People close to him claim that he had a good strike rate in the election campaign. He addressed 74 election meetings in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and the party won 49 seats. Some say his ‘strike rate’ was better than Prime Minister Narendra  Modi but nobody is ready to officially accept this.

The bigger question is, if Yogi Adityanath indeed has such a charisma, why is he failing to deliver? Why is he losing his grip over the State bureaucracy which is time and again failing to deliver? It goes without saying that Uttar Pradesh has never had such a hard-working Chief Minister, who has been on his toes all the time. He keeps reviewing projects from time-to-time and does not hesitate to reach ground zero, as and when required. He is the first Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to visit all 75 districts in the 16 months of his tenure.

The only plausible reason could be that the Chief Minister is looking at development through the prism of religion. He has been a mahant for the past 30-odd years, so his thinking revolves around religion and Hindutva. He believes that entrenching Hindutva deep in the minds of the majority community would have a cascading effect and strengthen social votebases.  So, Ayodhya has taken a centrestage ever since Yogiji  came to power while the cow has become a political motif.

This thinking, however, has proved to be an albatross around the neck of Yogi Adityanath and his Government. In the name of cow protection, self-promoted cow vigilante groups have started harassing people on the slightest pretext of abusing the animal and creating their own sense of relevance. This has further alienated religious minorities and made them more vulnerable to Hindu nationalist groups. As a result the traditional cow melas, where cattle was traded for agricultural purposes, have vanished suddenly. Farmers, too, are facing stray cattle, which no longer milch, but are devouring the ready crop, giving a body blow to the farm economy. In western Uttar Pradesh, farmers have started locking stray cattle inside schools, PHC compounds or in any Government building to protect their crop.       

In this scenario, the work for the Yogi Government as well as the BJP leadership has been cut out. Both need to not just deliver but win back the confidence of the people. With the BJP and its Government raising the aspirations of the people by several notches, through slogans like achche din, the masses clearly do not see any improvement in the promised quality of life, particularly in cities. The need of the hour is for the BJP Government in Uttar Pradesh to look beyond Ram temple, Ayodhya and the cow.

(The writer is Executive Director, News, The Pioneer, Lucknow)

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