The collapse of hope – Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh

After covering yesterday the hope that Mamta Banerjee had raised in the people of Bengal and the way that she has gone about arrogantly crushing that hope made me realize that there are others who came in with a lot of hope, and who have steadily been crushing the hope that people have in them. If this is the criteria, then the topmost name (ranking along with Mamta, would be the young Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Singh Yadav). If there is a chief minister who came in with hope but whose name is now taken in disgust, it would be Akhilesh.
Uttar Pradesh plays a unique role in Indian politics. For decades, the concept was that to win the Prime Ministership of India, the party needed to have won Uttar Pradesh, although this was true only when the Congress was ruling. And there have been a number of Prime Ministers of the country who have their origin in Uttar Pradesh, including the Nehru Gandhi family (they were Kashmiri, but over the ages, they are now counted as having been settled in Allahabad). Of course, the very fact that overall economic growth in the country was low for so many decades meant that the growth rates in UP were not exactly great either, and the heavy set of caste equations in the state meant that there were all sorts of restrictions.
This lack of growth was in fact made more permanent with the advent of the caste based parties, the Samajwadi Parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party. At one point they were allies, but it was clear that they were fighting for vote bases that did have some amount of intersection, and the ambitions of the leaders of both parties definitely overlapped, and so they split up acrimoniously. But their presence and their excellence in playing the caste card and projecting themselves as the savior of minorities meant that they became the chief claimants for power in the state, casting aside the former ruling parties, the Congress and the BJP.
The chief identity of these parties was related to caste based politics, and they have never claimed to have much of a development agenda, and it has also been clear for quite some time that the situation and the people in Uttar Pradesh do not really lend themselves to a growth minded impulse in the people of the state, which can be considered natural in places such a Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Over the years, what Uttar Pradesh has really seen is a situation where development and growth is not really very high, but the politics of patronage and associated violence has only grown. In fact, in previous years, when the Samajadi party had come to power, it was clear that this was considered as a signal by the partymen that they owned the state; the police was a mute spectator while the amount of violence and thuggism had increased tremendously.
The voters grew tired of this violence, and voted the BSP under Mayawati to power, but in all her time, she really did not do too much either to change things and the level of development remained the same. In the last elections, there was expectation that the Samajwadi Party might come back to power if people could forget the level of violence and anarchy that prevailed in their last Government; and the Samajwadi campaign was led by somebody new – a dynamic fairly young man, the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav. He did yatras on cycle, and even managed to keep some of the more dangerous and public criminal-politicians from getting seats.
And he got more votes and seats than probably any other party in the state for many decades; he was apparently what the state needed. However, in most cases, hope can get seriously crushed quickly, and so it happened in this case. It was pretty clear right from the beginning that he was not the overall Chief Minister, with it being said that there were 4.5 chief ministers in the state – the 4 being his father, father’s brother, and other influential leaders, and the 0.5 was Akhilesh. And things have only continued to go downhill, with development not really going anywhere. What has come back with a vengeance is the cadre who felt that the state was theirs, and have proceeded to lay down a level of violence and arrogance in the state that is incredible. So you had an on duty DSP shot and killed, you regularly have toll booths vandalized for trying to collect toll from SP leaders who cannot understand why the party flag on their vehicles does not allow them to pass, you have the police standing by when an SP worker does something, you have policemen sitting at the foot of SP leaders, honest bureaucrats victimized if they do anything against some quest by an SO worker or leader, and the list is endless.
But what took the cake was the mayhem in Muzzafarnagar. During late August and early September, there were a series of events in the area that were in the nature of increased communal tension, and what was needed was some good old-fashioned police high-handedness in preventing emotions from boiling over; instead, what was achieved was a situation where the Jat community believed that the state was operating in a biased manner, and decided to let their emotions spill over in a direct confrontation with the Muslim community, and what resulted was a series of uncontrolled riots and deaths, and also the movement of sections of the Muslim and Jat communities to relief camps. What happened next was incredible. The Muslims in the relief camps refused to go back to their villages, and apparently the UP Government had decided that these refugees staying in camps was bad for the image of the state; what was criminal was the poor state of facilities in these camps and the avoidable death of children and adults here because the state did not provide any sort of facilities. Even when winter was approaching, any help that the camps had was through private help (otherwise a state administration not being able to provide help does not sound incredible).
What cannot be believed is the political angle to all this. The Samajwadi Party portrays itself as the party friendly to the Muslim community, so the fact that the Government is seemingly totally indifferent to the state of the people in these camps (who are mostly Muslims) is incredible to believe, since one would expect that there would be a backlash against this poor relief effort. The Congress and the BSP are waiting in the wings to take over the support of the Muslim community, and yet there does not seem to be any response from Akhilesh on all of this. And given how the Government is really governing, it would be a totally indifferent voter who would give Mulayam Singh the 40-50 Lok Sabha seats that he wants for projecting himself as the Prime Minister.

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