| Lucknow |
Updated: November 21, 2017 10:20 am
As Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath hits the road for civic polls, The Indian Express travels across the state to track the change he’s brought.
IN March, it came to power in Uttar Pradesh doing two things at once — making promises and saying no.
The BJP government promised that the roads of UP would be “gaddha-mukt” (pothole-free) by June 15. There would be a farm-loan waiver, law and order, cleanliness, transparency in government contracts. At the same time, it was going to put in place the “kathor (stern)” state that evokes fear. It would do away with crime and criminals. Cows would not be killed anymore. Madrasas that did not meet stricter norms would be shut down. There would be no more appeasement of minorities. Or loitering by boys in public spaces near girls.
Eight months on, in the mirror of the ongoing campaign for urban local body polls beginning this week, the delivering state is yet to be seen but it’s the disallowing state that’s making itself heard.
Yogi Adityanath, now also the Hindutva mascot and star campaigner for his party outside UP — in Gujarat and in Himachal Pradesh before that — is the first UP chief minister to devote so much time and energy to civic polls. This when Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati are staying away from the campaign even though, in a break from the past, the SP and BSP are fighting these polls under their party symbols. But UP’s CM, who began his electioneering in the temple city of Ayodhya and is set to conclude it in Gorakhpur, is scheduled to address 30-35 meetings in all, averaging about three a day.
“We are in power in UP after a long time”, says Vijay Bahadur Pathak, state BJP general secretary. “We take these polls seriously”.
But how seriously does it take governance — after its big win in the state, for the Yogi Adityanath government, that’s the question.
For the record, 82.35 per cent of the identified roads — 85,824.98 km in the first phase, 4,475.94 km in the second — have been made pothole-free so far and the rest will be completed by March 2018.
But as The Indian Express travelled across eastern and western UP, it found that on the road, the government’s claim evokes derision, even among BJP supporters. In the heart of Gorakhpur, in the constituency that elected Adityanath as MP five times in a row, the busy 3-km stretch from Dr H N Singh Chauraha to Tarang flyover via Harahwa Phatak railway crossing remains more pothole than road.
Swachch Bharat is yet to make a difference, despite the double push of the Modi-and-Yogi governments — in Khanupur on Muzaffarnagar’s edge, the village pond, choked with silt, was last cleaned in Mayawati’s regime and households, Jat and SC, depend for drinking water on “campers”, privately delivered to doorsteps, at 4 am daily.
The farm loan waiver is trickling down to beneficiaries but also setting off resentments above and below — among the large numbers of landless agricultural workers and smaller farmers not in a position to take bank loans, and in the better-off farmers who paid off most of their debt but are also in distress because of costly inputs and trailing minimum support prices.
But these aren’t quite the talking points yet — it’s the kathor state that people are tuning in to.
Encounters, anti-Romeo squads
You hear it, at one end, in the “encounter” talk in political corridors in Lucknow. And, at the other, in the “Anti-Romeo Squads” created in the local thana to prevent “abhadra tippani/chedkhani (indecent behaviour)” towards women and young girls.
On encounters, the Chief Minister set the tone. “Goli ka jawab goli se”, he said and reiterated his government’s resolve to despatch criminals to “Yamraj ka ghar” in the campaign for the civic polls.
In the first six months of Yogi raj — a police officer in Lucknow says congratulatory messages to his office describe it as “thoki raj” — 18 “criminals” were shot dead in encounters — until September, that number climbed to 23. That is not a large number in a state like UP but what is new is the unabashed way in which the state government owns encounters.
“Apradhi ki goli chalegi to goli ka jawab goli se hi dena hoga (if criminals shoot at the police, the police must respond in kind)”, says Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya. It is “jawabi karvayi (counter strike)”, he says, “you can call it an encounter”.
“Ya zameen mein gadh diye jaoge (else, you will be buried in the ground)”, says Maurya’s colleague, Transport Minister Swatantra Dev Singh. “Agar 6-7 baar chedkhaani karta hai, dand nahin hua, toh bina encounter ke aap control nahi kar sakte (you need encounters to control serial offenders)”. And because “sarkar ka iqbal hona chahiye (a government must be feared)”.