Akhilesh Yadav’s dilemma

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Akhilesh Yadav’s dilemma

Balancing development and vote-bank politics

It is good that the Uttar Pradesh Government has decided to focus on development projects in the run-up to the Assembly election scheduled for early next year. For far too long, the Samajwadi Party regime of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has concentrated on partisan, appeasement politics in the hope that its vote-banks will deliver during the election. But, post-Muzaffarnagar violence especially, it must have realised the danger of putting all its eggs in one basket and ignoring the basics that the people of the State had voted overwhelming for, in 2012. The Chief Minister also seems to have taken a leaf out of the Bharatiya Janata Party's emphatic sweep of the State's seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, which came on Narendra Modi's promise of inclusive development: Sabka saath, sabka vikas.

It's not that Akhilesh Yadav Government has done no development work in the last four years, but the pace has been slow and the little that has been achieved was overshadowed by other incidents, be it the Muzaffarnagar riots, the insensitivity demonstrated by holding the Saifai event in the backdrop of the violence, senior Minister Mohammed Azam Khan's intemperate remarks, poor law and order etc. Akhilesh Yadav wants these memories diluted by a fresh thrust on various development schemes that can deliver soon (there's no time left) and keep voters Samajwadi Party-positive as they walk into the polling booths.

The Chief Minister can claim that the State's growth rate has been steadily high even when the country witnessed a slowdown during the UPA’s rule, but figures alone do not tell the entire story. Several villages in the State still do not have electricity (poles may have been put up and wires strung, but power supply is either not there or erratic and of poor quality); primary and tertiary healthcare is far from good; and casteism in Government appointments, from the police to educational institutions, has been virtually institutionalised to tilt in favour of a particular caste. To add to this is the perception that Akhilesh Yadav is not in control of his Government; party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, his brother Shivpal Yadav and old-timers such as Azam Khan call the shots. While the presence of the first is understandable given that he heads the party, it's the role of the others that has undermined the Chief Minister's authority.

On surface, the Samajwadi Party has got off the block first, issuing regular advertisements in various publications that tom-tom its Government's achievements. The Chief Minister's fresh drive to complete unfinished development projects is part of this campaign. But the Bahujan Samaj Party is active too at the grassroots level, without making a song and dance, to highlight the Government's failures. A rejuvenated Bharatiya Janata Party smells an opportunity to outperform the two regional parties this time around. The Samajwadi party has formidable competition that it did not face in 2012.

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