Is Akhilesh Yadav’s honeymoon with Uttar Pradesh over?
In March 2012, Akhilesh Yadav became the youngest chief minister of India after defeating Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections. He gained power on the plank of good governance, and promise of better law and order. More than a year down the line, the man in the hot seat is increasingly looking hapless and seems to have completely lost the way.
The recent violence Muzaffarnagar, in which more than 45 people lost their lives and thousands have been displaced, has only brought to the fore the fear that many had when the Samajwadi Party came to power after trouncing the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Communal violence has been on the rise under Akhliesh’s rule. In June 2012, four people were killed in Mathura after clashes broke out between two communities at Kosi Kalan when a dispute occurred over drinking water outside a place of worship. On July 23, 2012, three people were killed in Bareilly over loud music being played near a place of worship in Jogi Navada. The communal violence resumed in the area again in August 2012. In September 2012, six people were reported to have been killed in clashes in Ghaziabad after a sacred book was allegedly desecrated. On October 24, 2012, one person was killed in Faizabad and curfew was imposed after a dispute occurred during Durga procession. On September 03, 2013, one person was killed in Shamlia and at least 10 others were injured after a conflict occurred between two communities over garbage dumping in Tisara.
According to a data released by the Union Home Ministry, 107 people lost their lives in riots this year in India, of whom 66 were Muslims and 41 were Hindus and UP recorded the highest number of casualties - 62 - among all states, of whom 42 were Muslims and 20 were Hindus. Moreover, there were 93 riots in the state in the first nine months of 2103.
Thus, it is clear that communal tension has been simmering in the state for a while now, but the government did not pay much heed to it or rather chose not to do so. In the riots that ensued in Western UP too, the ruling SP government has been accused of not doing enough to stop violence from escalating, despite the fact that it had been alerted of tension brewing in the area.
Akhilesh`s government has been accused of deliberately turning a blind eye to what was happening in Muzaffarnagar in order to polarise the voters and gain political mileage out of it. Though, SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and his men have blamed other political parties of trying to vitiate the atmosphere, the fact is that the UP CM has a lot to answer for.
To begin with, why didn`t he take prompt action when initial violence was reported from Muzaffarnagar? Did Akhilesh`s government deliberately ask the administration to go slow for political mileage, as 2014 General Elections are round the corner? Why was a mahapanchayat allowed to take place in the district even though prohibitory orders were in place? Why did the government take ages to start arresting those MLAs and MPs against whom a warrant had been issued for inciting communal violence in the region? And why was no warrant issued against SP leader Rashid Siddiqui, who has been accused of making a hate speech in the riot-hit district?
Also, why has the CM not acted against senior SP leader and UP minister Azam Khan, who has been accused of influencing the state police during riots as shown in a sting operation by a TV channel? And did his government ask police not to arrest certain members of a particular community for vote-bank politics?
Given the above scenario, Akhilesh Yadav should be a worried man. If the recent communal clashes in Western UP are any indication, the signs from the Hindi heartland are not good. The religious divide in the state seems to be deepening and people have already started comparing Akhilesh’s government to Samajwadi Party’s bitter rival Mayawati’s BSP rule where in five years not a single riot took place.
Western UP is dominated by three communities - Jats, Jatavs and Muslims. Jats and Jatavs have traditionally voted for the RLD and the BSP, with Muslims being in SP’s kitty. It is said that the SP wanted to marginalise the Congress, so that they would not shift towards the grand old party in the next Lok Sabha Elections. It is also said that SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav desperately wants to do well in the next Lok Sabha elections as that would keep alive his prime ministerial ambitions in case there is a hung Parliament in 2014. In all likelihood, the riots in Western UP will change the political landscape in the state.
However, it is not just communal violence that has been on the rise during SP rule. Much like its previous regime, ‘goondaraj’ is said to be back in the state, and law and order is said to have taken a beating. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, UP tops the list of gunshot deaths in the city. As per the data, of the 3718 people killed because of weapons death in 2012, 1,720 was in UP alone, i.e. accounting for 50 percent compared to the whole country. These killings as per the statistics have increased after the Akhilesh government came to power.
When Akhilesh embarked on his campaign across the Hindi heartland before the state polls, his image and his sincerity did endear the masses. People found him humble and down to earth, and saw hope in him. They rejected the scion of the Gandhi family, Rahul, and instead chose him to be their leader. In the run-up to the UP polls, Akhilesh had taken some decisions which had led people to believe that he meant business. He had struck down the decision of his uncle and senior party leader Shivpal Yadav to bring in a BSP leader’s brother in the party. And he had vehemently said no to the entry of the so-called don of UP, DP Yadav, in the party.
Most thought then that Akhilesh wanted to change the image of SP of being a party of goons and film stars. Incidentally, the women whom Rahul failed to woo, voted for him in large numbers. He had acknowledged the fact that the Samajwadi Party was considered to be a party of criminals and had said time and again that criminal elements had no place in his scheme of things. However, it’s not even been two years since Akhilesh came to the helm and the hope that many had with him seems to be rapidly vanishing.
The murder of the DSP of Kunda, in which allegations were levelled at one of his ministers, Raja Bhaiya and other such incidences have only reinforced the fact that maybe Akhilesh is losing the grip over his state. And the controversy surrounding the suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, allegedly for taking on the sand mafia further eroded his credibility. Also the fact that people say that though Akhilesh may be the CM of UP, the state is actually run by his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, his uncle Shivpal Yadav and the powerful Muslim face of the Samajwadi Party, Azam Khan, has not done his image any good.
Can Akhilesh redeem himself, take charge and reassure the electorate that they did not make a mistake by giving him the mandate to rule, is the question that the young Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh needs to ask himself.