India Today - - CONTENTS - (Aroon Purie)

Ayear ago, the BJP stunned the nation with a sweep­ing vic­tory in the Ut­tar Pradesh assem­bly elec­tion, win­ning 312 of the 403 Vid­han Sabha seats. It was fol­lowed by another big sur­prise when the BJP high com­mand ap­pointed the five-time MP from Go­rakh­pur, Yogi Adityanath, as chief min­is­ter. He was head of a pow­er­ful, if small, tem­ple trust with nei­ther any ex­pe­ri­ence nor any un­der­stand­ing of ad­min­is­ter­ing a state as vast and com­plex as Ut­tar Pradesh. There was a sub­lim­i­nal mes­sage in his se­lec­tion by the party. Here was a saf­fron-clad pri­est who had a tough-guy im­age with no fam­ily in tow and who em­bod­ied Hin­dutva without hav­ing to spell it out. He started off well by dis­ci­plin­ing the sloth­ful state bu­reau­cracy and clean­ing out cor­rup­tion in the po­lice force. He came across as a no-non­sense ad­min­is­tra­tor who would deal swiftly with the crim­i­nal net­works that had be­dev­illed the state. The prom­ise was that he stood for progress for all sec­tions of so­ci­ety.

Re­cently, three events have taken the sheen off the politi­cian-monk’s im­age— the al­leged cover-up of a rape by a BJP MLA; the open anger of four Dalit MPs from Ut­tar Pradesh against the treat­ment of their com­mu­nity; and the de­feat of the BJP in two crit­i­cal by­elec­tions, one of them be­ing in his con­stituency, Go­rakh­pur. Last year, more than 600 chil­dren died in Go­rakh­pur and its sur­round­ing dis­tricts from en­cephali­tis. Clo­sure of il­le­gal slaugh­ter­houses caused wide­spread loss of liveli­hood and led to the grow­ing me­nace of stray cat­tle. State cof­fers are empty and debt has risen two-and-a-half times in the past 10 years. Un­em­ploy­ment is high—10 mil­lion at last count. And ‘en­coun­ters’ have been ris­ing. Po­lice have car­ried out 1,322 en­coun­ters, gun­ning down 44 al­leged crim­i­nals in the last one year. Their fre­quency has led to crit­i­cism that sev­eral were staged. Add to this, the Hin­dutva agenda has been pur­sued un­apolo­get­i­cally, from cel­e­brat­ing Di­wali with much pomp and show at Ay­o­d­hya to with­draw­ing 131 cases linked to the 2013 com­mu­nal ri­ots in Muzaf­far­na­gar and Shamli.

Adityanath has been elo­quent in his own de­fence, even ad­mit­ting mis­takes, blam­ing “over­con­fi­dence” for the de­feat in the by­elec­tions. But so far he has not shown the abil­ity to cor­rect his er­rors, choos­ing to pa­per over them, whether it was the rather ob­vi­ous den­i­gra­tion of the Taj Ma­hal as part of In­dian her­itage or the con­se­quences of anti-Romeo squads, which seemed more like an ex­ten­sion of the du­bi­ous love ji­had cam­paign. This week, in­dia to­day’s cover story ex­am­ines the man in the hot seat and his ten­ure so far. It in­cludes an in-depth in­ter­view by Group Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor Raj Chen­gappa, in­dia to­day Hindi ed­i­tor An­shu­man Ti­wari and As­sis­tant Ed­i­tor Ashish Misra, in which Adityanath dis­misses Dalit out­rage as a “spon­sored drama” and in­sists that he “can­not re­cite the Hanu­man Chal­isa at home and wear a skull cap out­side just to at­tract votes”. It is most un­usual to have a monk who is so open about his agenda—he main­tains there is no dif­fer­ence between Hin­dutva and de­vel­op­ment—run a state with so many prob­lems but so much po­ten­tial. “Yogi Adityanath’s per­sonal in­tegrity re­mains un­ques­tioned and he has pushed hard for trans­parency and clean deal­ings in the state,” says Chen­gappa. “But his in­ex­pe­ri­ence in gover­nance is tak­ing its toll and has been ex­ac­er­bated by the fact that most of his cab­i­net col­leagues are also new­bies.”

It bears rep­e­ti­tion that Ut­tar Pradesh’s pop­u­la­tion of 220 mil­lion is larger than that of Ger­many and France com­bined. The BJP’s stun­ning vic­tory in the gen­eral elec­tion of 2014 owed a lot to Ut­tar Pradesh, where the party won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats. Much of that was be­cause of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s ap­peal be­yond the BJP’s tra­di­tional up­per caste vote bank to non-Ya­davs among the Other Back­ward Classes and Dal­its. But that frag­ile al­liance built on the prom­ise of sabka saath, sabka vikas looks set to self-de­struct now, which doesn’t bode well for the BJP in the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion. With the elec­tions barely a year away, the big ques­tion is whether the yogi can repli­cate the 2014 re­sult in this crit­i­cal state. His bene­fac­tors will be watch­ing closely.

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