UP remains hotbed of politics
Uttar Pradesh lived up to its reputation of being a hotbed of politics with the BJP and other saffron outfits keeping the Ayodhya issue alive and the...
Uttar Pradesh lived up to its reputation of being a hotbed of politics with the BJP and other saffron outfits keeping the Ayodhya issue alive and the opposition testing its mahagathbandhan-in-the-making by winning crucial bypolls in 2018. As the 2019 Lok Sabha elections approach, politics will only intensify in the state which sends 80 MPs, the largest number in the country, to the Lok Sabha and can make or break electoral prospects of national parties.
As the year drew to a close, the law and order situation in the state came into sharp focus again with the killing of a police inspector in mob violence over alleged cow slaughter in Bulandshahr district. The ruling BJP suffered shock defeats this year in the Lok Sabha bypolls in three key constituencies -- Gorakhpur (held by Yogi Adityanath before he became chief minister), Phulpur (represented by Deputy CM Keshav Maurya) and Kairana -- as opposition parties joined hands to stop the BJP juggernaut.
Months after tasting blood there, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party kept the opposition's hopes of a ‘grand alliance' in 2019 alive by offering the Congress support, even if somewhat grudgingly, to form the government in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath also did his bit for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the recent assembly elections, campaigning for it in the poll-bound states. But he also got embroiled in a row when he described Lord Hanuman as Dalit. Despite the 2018 bypoll defeats, the BJP with its big majority in the assembly swept the biennial elections to the state's legislative council and, as voters, its UP MLAs helped add to the party's numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The year saw the birth of two new political outfits. Sidelined Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Singh Yadav floated Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia and Independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh, often called 'Raja Bhaiya', approached the Election Commission for registration of his own party. Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad, who was imprisoned for a year on charges of threatening national security, said his Bhim Army will support candidates fielded jointly by the opposition against the BJP next year.
The Ram temple issue bounced back on the political landscape with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad holding a `Dharam Sabha' in Ayodhya, days ahead of the December 6 anniversary of the demolition there of the Babri Masjid. The conclave served to maintain pressure on the government on constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya through legislation, keeping in view the “delay” in the Supreme Court where the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute is being heard.
In an apparent bid to steal some of the thunder of the VHP event, the Adityanath government announced it will install a 221-metre statue of Lord Ram in Ayodhya. In a related move, the Adityanath government has also renamed Faizabad district as Ayodhya. In addition, Allahabad, where the Kumbh mela will be held early next year, is now Prayagraj. Mughalsarai railway station is now renamed after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, elected to Parliament from Varanasi, made a number of trips to UP, including two for investors' summits where major domestic and multi-national companies offered to open shop in the state.
Potentially this could generate employment and help boost the state's economy. But the state's bad reputation on law and order threatens to discourage investment, even if the Adityanath government claims it is doing much better than the previous SP government on this score. Allegations of fake police encounters hounded the state government, with over 60 alleged criminals being killed since Yogi Adityanath took charge in March 2017. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the state in certain cases. Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police O P Singh says all those killed were criminals at large.
“If a criminal fires on the police team, then we are left with no option but to retaliate,” the DGP has said. Chilling allegations of sexual exploitation and human trafficking emerged after a 12-year-old girl approached police, saying how girls from a Deoria shelter home were sent out with visitors. Stray dogs in Sitapur district killed little children, mafia don Munna Bajrangi was murdered in Baghpat jail, 21 people became HIV-infected as an Unnao quack used a common syringe –- the large state had its share of bad news during the year. And then there was the Bulandshahr violence that killed a 20-year-old man and police inspector, who happened to be an initial investigating officer in a 2015 lynching over alleged beef consumption. Yogi Adityanath came in for flak. Critics said in his statements after the Bulandshahr violence, the CM seemed to focus more on curbing cow slaughter than on the mob violence.
- Subhashis Mittra