Uttar Pradesh elections – some challenges facing Akhilesh Yadav

In the 1984 elections, after the sudden death by assassination of Indira Gandhi, her son became the new Prime Minister and in the polls soon after, he got an astounding number of parliamentary seats giving him a huge majority – with 411 MP’s out of a total possible of 543, this was a huge mandate that he got. However, due to some misguided policies and some wrong steps (opening the locks of the Ram Janambhoomi, the Muslim Personal Law Bill, the huge controversy over the Bofors deal and a group of advisors who did nothing but mis-manage his relations with the country and the media. By the time of the 1989 elections, the support for Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress significantly declined to 197 seats.
The above example just shows that just because a party gets a huge number of seats in a particular election does not mean that this honeymoon will carry over into the next election. In fact, closer home in Uttar Pradesh, the performance of BSP in the 2007 election and then in the recent elections shows how fickle public support can be. Now, with the Samajwadi Party making a huge win in the elections, and then nominating Akhilesh Yadav to be the Chief Minister, the SP can set the ground for continuing this winning way in the future, or crash and burn in the next few years. Here are a few points for the same:

1. The Samajwadi Party in the last time when it ruled the state had developed a reputation for being a party soft on crime, of encouraging a regime where its local leaders and caste groups could feel that they can do what they want without being held accountable. It seemed so bad that it was held unsafe for women to go out in the night in the capital, Lucknow. Soon after the win this time, the action of workers of the SP in a few isolated incidents showed that maybe this crime regime had returned. However, the actions of Akhilesh in condemning this behavior and trying to put a stop to such behavior showed the current way. It would be disastrous for the party to be in a situation where it gained back this reputation of being crime-friendly; and this time, the courts and media are much more active, pouncing on any such episode.
2. In his campaign, Akhilesh Yadav promised more development for the people, including helping to lead them into the computer age. These require funds, and the state is woefully short of funds; and given the state of finances at the center, the Congress cannot offer anything to the state Government either. The local SP Government is going to have to meet the hopes of people for a better governance and more development; also many people of Uttar Pradesh also go to other states and the metro cities, and see a high rate of development, and aspire to see this in their own state. He has to take measures that would help in reaching this goal. Populist measures rarely do long-term good unless they are well done and well monitored.
3. Corruption. Part of the reason why Mayawati went down was because of her image of leading a corrupt Government. Even by trying to sack people who are corrupt near the elections, there was no benefit. Akhilesh needs to ensure more transparency in the state, ensure that as much of corruption in the Government is reduced. This will increase the amount of funds available for development, ensure that the reputation of the Government is not spoiled, and also prevent the opposition from being able to assail his Government. It would be ideal if he is able to implement a strong Lokpal mechanism to oversee prevention of corruption in the state.
Now, all these seem like items that are more ideal in nature, and it is difficult to implement them. Akhilesh has a party that has been out of power for many years, and many leaders who demand their pound of flesh. However, he also needs to realize that nowadays, the amount of time that people tolerate a bad Government has reduced significantly, and they expect more from the party in power.

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