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UP: Groaning under dynasty raj

UP: Groaning under dynasty raj
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India, that is Bharat, that is Uttar Pradesh,” it used to be proclaimed years ago to underscore the State’s political supremacy. Chief Minister...

“India, that is Bharat, that is Uttar Pradesh,” it used to be proclaimed years ago to underscore the State’s political supremacy. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was, perhaps, hinting at this when he declared the other day that if his Samajwadi Party and the Congress forged an alliance, his father Mulayam Singh Yadav could be the next Prime Minster, with Rahul Gandhi as the Deputy PM.

He was obviously playing his card vis-a-vis the Congress and other challengers in the State. The Congress and other parties only took note since it is too early to talk of the next Lok Sabha polls. Akhilesh talked because it is time for the next assembly polls in early 2017.

This is well-timed to celebrate the consolidation of another dynasty to match the Nehru-Gandhis. After Netaji, brother Shivpal, Akhilesh and his wife Dimple, the latest entrant to Yadav clan is Aparna, wife of Mulayam’s younger son Prateek, who has ruled himself out of politics – so far.

Akhilesh’s overture to the Congress is ostensibly because it is the weakest of four power-contenders in UP, but with a history of having ruled the state for long years. It is like the game of Number 1 offering to align with Number 4 to keep 2 and 3 out.

Such games apart, even the Congressmen privately will tell you that their party’s support base in UP has been seriously eroded. The upper castes have gone to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Dalits to Mayawati and the Muslims to Samajwadi.

The Congress has not done anything remotely spectacular in the State to make these communities return. The only surmise at this stage for Akhilesh to make the statement is to prevent a possible alliance between the Congress and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party which is angling to return to power in the State.

Except for a recent non-event like a conference of the NRIs from the State, UP has been in the news mostly for the wrong reasons. Among them is burning alive of a journalist. There have been frequent clashes between the state government and Governor Ram Naik who has lamented poor law and order situation and has threatened to send report to the Centre.

The State government failed to anticipate the prolonged riot in Muzaffarnagar that killed some 80 people and displaced 50,000. Some of whom still live in relief camps. Even assuming it was the BJP ploy to inject the communal element through these riots as later records show, it was an intelligence failure and worse, political one for failing to do anything tangible – either prevent the riots or provide relief to the victims.

The inquiry report on the riots makes bizarre reading. It absolves the political leadership and places the blame on intelligence failure and some middle-level policemen. Don’t the intelligence department and the police come under the Home Minister, if not the Chief Minister?

Lynching of a person last September for allegedly storing beef at home at Dadri turned out to be another milestone of mismanagement. The State government not only failed to nip the mischief in the bud, it also kept blaming the BJP-led government at the Centre.

In a case of an illegal wall being demolished, the government punished the lady official, Durgesh Nandini Nagpal. She was reinstated only after a public outcry. All governments in UP, particularly the Samajwadi, have a record of condoning criminality if it comes from their political henchmen.

Horrifying assaults against law and order continue to be reported from the State, as in the recent case of panchayat poll rivalry in Mirzapur district. The minor daughter of a winning woman block development council candidate was allegedly gang-raped by her mother’s rivals.

The Class XI student went to the police but they refused to file an FIR against the accused she named, after which the girl committed suicide. This sort of brazen criminality and police indifference stain the State’s governance record. One of the ‘ailments’ of the Akhilesh government is having a motor mouth called Azam Khan, a minister whom none can silence.

He threatened to write to the United Nations on Dadri, when his own government’s response was no more than political breast-beating. Azam Khan, like his mentor, Mulayam Singh Yadav, has continued to say provocative things. Mulayam himself questioned whether a girl could be gang-raped.

The politically incorrect gaffes by both of them are legion. And they do not seem sorry for any of them. The government that came to power supposedly on the votes of the minorities failed to protect them on at least two occasions. The next few months in the run-up to the assembly elections could see more such incidents.

Political parties in Uttar Pradesh appear to be falling back on the old identity card. Truck loads of stones being brought to Ayodhya for the construction of a future temple at the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site exemplify this point.

There are reports that the father-son duo is not getting along well. Mulayam has pulled up the son before party men and officials, making clear who is the boss. Is this charade going to determine the future of India’s most populous state? The duo has been together in vulgar display of wealth and popularity at Saifai, the ancenstral village.

Bollywood celebrities and this year, even PM Modi attended, since it was the 75th birthday of Netaji. The State that sends the highest number of members to the Lok Sabha even after Uttarakhand was carved out has not matched its performance on any other front, least of all development. The rulers and the ruled in the State seem to think their numbers will carry the day for them, politically and in all other matters.

But story in the rest of the country is increasingly becoming different and more dynamic. This is pointed out by Ratan Tata, the doyen among India’s entrepreneurs. His recent remark that he was losing his heart to Uttar Pradesh may seem a pat on the back of Akhilesh, but it also throws light on the fact that fixing UP’s problems is critical to powering India’s growth story.

Tata has that knack of knowing a good thing coming. Not given to polemics, his praise would carry the necessary warnings. True, the Akhilesh Yadav government has done better in implementing business reforms, pushing UP into the top 10 ranking on this score.

The fact is that UP continues to languish behind other poor states in terms of GDP growth. Its human development indicators are among the poorest, despite its vast stretches of fertile land, the major rivers that flow through it, albeit grossly polluted and let us add, decades of political patronage.

Development, all round development, is the key to UP’s rise and with that is linked India’s success story. If UP lags behind, stays one of the BIMARU state (U for Uttar Pradesh), India as a whole suffers. If nothing else, UP ought to benefit from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi got elected from Varanasi and has detailed, ambitious plans to improve the conditions there. The fall-out effect of Varanasi should reach at least parts of the state.

This need not be measured by the fact that Modi belongs to the BJP, while the State has a SP government.Will the Yadavs – father and son duo – show some sagacity and prepare the State for faster development? For, Modi is bound to display his report card on Varanasi when he comes for the election campaign.

They still have a year to get their act right. Much more needs to be done to rev up the State’s growth engine. Development ought to be the main focus of all political stakeholders in UP. Slogans and election promises apart, that, unfortunately, has never happened in UP.

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