The way the Yogi Adityanath government handled the Sonbhadra massacre, the feeling in political circle is that the Bharatiya Janata Party willingly gave space to Congress, allowing Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to hog limelight, which in turn would galvanise the party at the grassroots level.
Senior ruling party leaders are silent on this question. One of them smiles and says that won’t it help BJP if Congress emerges powerful in Uttar Pradesh because BJP always favours multi-cornered electoral fight.
“There is no doubt that Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party will contest elections separately. Both the parties have their dedicated vote banks. If Congress emerges strong in the next year-and-a-half, it will help BJP,” the senior leader said, hinting that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has already blamed Congress governments of 1955 and 1989 for the massacre.
The argument of this leader is supported by the way the Yogi government imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Sonbhadra and allowed Priyanka to hog limelight.
The prohibitory orders were issued the day Priyanka reached Varanasi and before that leaders of some political parties had already visited Umbha village where the massacre took place.
Lenin Raghuvanshi of People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) said that Sonbhadra administration imposed Section 144 CrPC on July 19. Before that the government had allowed political leaders, civil activists and journalists to visit Umbha village.
“Left leaders had gone there and met the family members of the victims. Even Congress leader Ajay Kumar Lallu had visited the village on July 18, a day after the massacre took place. But when the administration came to know about Priyanka’s visit, prohibitory orders were issued on July 19,” Raghuvanshi said.
Sonbhadra District Magistrate Ankit Kumar Agarwal in his order said that prohibitory orders were issued for two days because “We received intelligence input suggesting that anti-social element are active in the area. Visit of VIPs and political leaders could aggravate the situation further. So we decided to impose Section 144.”
The whole issue has rejuvenated Congress, which was almost in a moribund in UP after Lok sabha elections. Party leaders held dharna across the state in support of Priyanka.
The BJP leaders played their role cleverly. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Dinesh Sharma in separate media interactions blamed Congress for the massacre.
“The seeds of discontent were sown in 1955 when gram sabha land was given to a society. In 1989, the said land was registered in the name of an individual. In 1955 and 1989 Congress was in power. Had the then Congress government taken steps, the massacre of people in 2019 could have been prevented,” Yogi said.
As the war of words between Congress and BJP intensified, Congress lawmaker Aradhana Mishra ‘Mona’ said, “The said land was sold in 2017 to the gram pradhan who opened fire killing 10 people. Whose was in government at that time Yogiji.”