The article was written on the occasion of four years of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh before the present second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I will start the article by discussing the big successes of the government instead of counting its failures.
In the last four years, the government has been successful on one front and that is its unparalleled “media Management”! All the journalists working for main newspapers/news channels from Uttar Pradesh do not criticise the UP govt, do not question it, or point its shortcomings. This has become the ‘media guideline’ for the last three years. But the same media is given full freedom to criticise already dead opposition parties and their leaders and if possible use abusive language against them. The so-called mainstream media is also no different. Barring a few cases like Hathras where govt was criticised, still, the blame was shifted to the police ADG, DIG, and SP-collector. Mainstream media also did not question the govt. leadership. When independent media like news portals and websites criticised the govt. were taught a lesson or two. Cases were put on some and some were arrested midway while reporting like Siddique Kappan a Malayali reporter who is still in jail. Many serious offences have been filed against him including UAPA.
There are more such ‘Accomplishments’ in the Yogi Govt’s Kitty
One is ‘opposition management’- The way the traditional parliamentary opposition parties have been made defunct in state politics is unprecedented. This is never seen before in Uttar Pradesh Politics. This is the new style of the new BJP. The government brings controversial steps every day but it’s going completely unchallenged by the opposition. Since 2017, it has been only a couple of times that the main opposition party Samajwadi party has come to the streets and raised a voice against the govt. Mayawati’s BSP anyway doesn’t even believe in coming onto the streets. She sometimes tweets or gives press statements. SP president Akhilesh Yadav also has a lot of faith in his tweets. I don’t know what is the effect of these tweets on their social base which mostly consists of the poor. While the opposition is in a dormant state, it’s the progressive political groups or fronts working on the ground are the ones who are seen opposing the government. Probably because the leaders of these groups were never in govt, CBI-ED can never be used against them.
Nowadays communities and organisations involved in the Farmers movement are also organising Mahapanchayats in Western Uttar Pradesh. Congress seems more active than SP and BSP. But congress doesn’t have any substantial mass base now in UP. Congress top leadership and strategists still come from upper-caste Hindu and elite Muslim families. It needs no mention that a large portion of the upper caste Hindus in the Hindi belt have been aligned with BJP for quite some time. It is for three main reasons that it is with BJP. The reasons are- Mandir masjid politics of BJP-RSS, its politics, and policies on Reservation, and its anti-muslim stance. Savarnas feel that it’s only the BJP that has given political voice to their anti-reservation stance. Despite this BJP-RSS has made considerable headway among the OBCs in UP. There are many interesting reasons for this baffling phenomenon. Due to this Congress has been unable to make its mass base in UP. The minorities in the region do not consider Congress as an effective power against BJP in regional politics. Hence they are inclined towards SP only.
These two ‘achievements’ of massive media management and opposition management give much relief to the Yogi govt. In this way, the work style of the Modi govt in center and Yogi govt in UP are quite similar. In the media such a favourable environment was once seen in Gujarat, now it is seen in UP. Even the opinion pages of regional editions are ‘directed’ from above. On the other side, those who are considered opposition are helping through their silence. Possibly the Modi Govt never got this kind of helpful opposition. In such kind of ‘achievements’ Yogi govt. is no different from the Modi central govt.
On alternative media platforms if any independent journalist or editor criticises the Yogi govt they are often arrested and many are put on trial under serious sections. Most affected by this are the local leaders of Congress and SP. In this matter, the Yogi govt record has even left the Indira Gandhi emergency period behind. Main reason behind harassing independent journalists and mainstream media management is to prevent them from showing flaws of the govt. functioning, so that they don’t show the problems that people are facing. If we see the statistics and facts then UP govt functioning is below average. Many times the administrative failures have been exposed.
But on the occasion of the fourth anniversary the govt. advertisements Yogi govt. the biggest message was- The govt has done in four years what hasn’t been done in decades.
This is true that since independence the track record of all the govts in UP has not been great. But what is the record of this govt.?UP is still at a pitiable state when it comes to human development indicators and far behind in ranking compared to many of the states. The only consolation for UP can be that it is above Bihar in terms of most backward states. Human development indicators cover per person income along with the state of education and health. UP has also maintained its dominance when it comes to normal crime and crime against women. According to the 2020 statistics, UP ranks at number five in SC-ST atrocities in the country.
In the Public Affairs Index 2020 also UP is the most badly administered state. The top position holder is Kerala which has also been at the top position for many years. The governance performance is analysed in the context of sustainable development defined by the three pillars of equity, growth, and sustainability. Tamilnadu is among the better-governed states. Bengal has also performed better than UP on most indices. Interestingly, CM Yogi Adityanath and top leaders of BJP in their every roadshow and rallies in the election-bound states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, and West Bengal are claiming to make these states like Gold(Aamaar Sonar). Yogi in his speeches has even said that if BJP wins in these states they will bring ‘Ramrajya’ like UP. Who will ask Yogiji that despite his claims of Ramrajya and sending criminals to jail or to Yamraj, why the situation of crime in UP is so bad. With a record number of 59445 cases of crime against women, UP also ranks the top state for criminal offenses in the country. According to the central govt. The National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) reports every day 11 rapes are committed in UP. From 2016 to 1019 there has been an increase of 20% in crime against women. Why did the UP govt not put charges against the Central home ministry for these statistics that it so liberally files on journalists who report true news from Lucknow, Mirzapur, and Delhi? UP govt reply was that the number of rape cases in the state is 3946 and not 4322. Even if we agree with the numbers given by the UP govt, is that a picture of a ‘golden state’ that the govt claims to be.
In its 18th March newspaper adverts, the UP govt advertised UP on number 2 for the“Ease of Doing Business” as its biggest achievement of the last four years. What does that have to do with people’s issues, the basic needs of society, and the overall development of the state? BJP is the only national party that has been saying for a long time that” Government has no business to do business”! Then why does it put the whole administration to clear ways for business people to do business? Why doesn’t it do the same for the issues related to farmers, workers, unemployed youth, women, the elderly, and the middle class? Why does it only spread the red carpet for corporates? Do our ‘Jai Shree Ram’ like corporates more?
UP govt has left behind all regional govt in autocratic behaviour when it comes to its treatment towards its critics and minorities.UP has become notorious for resorting to encounters and use of severe laws like the National Security Act (NSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). CM Yogi and his supporters call it “strict rule”. Can one imagine that in a democratic country, an elected leader will threaten the society with statements like- Those who commit a crime will be violently handled (Jo apradh karega wo thok diya jayega)? There is Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), IPC, law, court for handling crime but “direct hit” kind of threats were only heard in UP. Not just threats, we have even seen such things happen. In 2018-2020, there have been many ‘encounters’ to kill many criminals. In Sept. 2018, several questions were raised over a ‘live encounter’ in Aligarh.
How any voice of criticism is crushed under the Yogi govt can be seen in the case of the arrest of ex inspector general SR Darapuri. He was arrested under serious charges and even ordered to pay a fine. In Independent India, UP became witness to such kinds of frightening incidents. Not just Darapuri but such cases were filed on artists and political workers like Sadaf Jafar and many others. These arrests were made due to their participation in the Anti-CAA-NRC protests. Before that in 2017, Dr.Kafeel Khan from Gorakhpur was also arrested. He was arrested again under NSA.
I was a student of Allahabad University during the Emergency period and was supportive of anti-Emergency protests. During that time also there were a lot of false cases and arrests. But the kind of eccentric orders passed against Darapuri, Kafeel Khan, and Sadaf Jafar was not even seen during the emergency. In these cases, if the high court has not intervened in favour of the constitution then what would have happened to these enlightened and progressive people is anybody’s guess. Pawan Jaiswal of Mirzapur was only arrested because he reported about the bad quality of mid-day meals in primary schools. Supriya Sharma of Scroll. in and senior journalists like Siddharth Vardarajan of The Wire was also piled with serious IPC sections.
This is the kind of illusion democracy is that despite all this Yogi Adityanath govt is not facing any kind of political challenge now and in near future. Even the RSS leadership is also a fan of Yogi’s ‘qualities. According to some sources, RSS sees Yogi as a big leader in the future. In Gujarat, the corporates supported and gave full power to Modi’s hardline Hindutva. In UP, there are no such local big corporate heads. BJP-RSS leadership has taken refuge in social engineering here. Social engineering is needed here more than in Gujarat. In this RSS laboratory, some different type of experiment is going on. English educated intellectuals, writers, and liberals of the metropolitan cities think that this new ambassador of ‘fanatical Hindutva’, Yogi Adityanath with his oppressive state and open disregard for constitutional values will one day just become unpopular and be out of power. But the ground reality of UP is the absolute opposite of it. Both opposition parties SP and BSP are silent and this has made it easy for BJP RSS leadership. SP-BSP’s mass base is very disappointed by this defeatist attitude of their leadership. Under pressure from supporters and party workers, Akhilesh Yadav has started some activities in UP, but he doesn’t have a proper organisation to fight it out, only a mob. The mob doesn’t have any political alternative. This has made one section frustrated and to save themselves from oppression and for their own political benefit are going under the power umbrella. Of these BSP is in a worse position. BJP is welcoming these newcomers from Dalit and backward castes. In the vocal sections of these communities fulfilling their selfish interests weigh more than the politics of ideology. BJP-RSS is very happy with the partial success of its experiments. They are trying to take UP the “Gujarat Route” in a totally different style. The parliamentary opposition is completely incapable of stopping it. In such a case the biggest question about UP’s political future is- Can the local activists take the new politics coming out of Western UP’s farmers’ movement and take it to the ground with the disappointed youth and a dull parliamentary opposition and stop UP from going the “Gujarat Way”.
The author is a senior journalist, television anchor, and author. He has worked with Rajya Sabha TV and the wire. He is currently working with Newsclick.
Translation by Swati S.