100 Days of Yogi Mahant-Turned-Mukhyamantri’s Zest and Zeal Overcoming Hurdles
Any political leader aiming to be the Prime Minister of India covets support of Uttar Pradesh (UP), for, it sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, which is almost 16 per cent of the total strength of the all-important Lower House. Narendra Modi, who has in sight the 2019 General Election, along with Amit Shah spared no effort to secure for his party, the BJP, maximum number of seats in the UP state assembly and thereafter sprung a major surprise by choosing Yogi Adtyanath, mahant of Gorakhpur-based Gorakhnath Temple, to be the chief minister of UP, often called the political cauldron of India.
Modi and Shah’s choice of Yogi signalled that they had faith in him, that he will be able to pull the state lagging in development, deal with the extreme lawlessness in the countryside, dredge out deep-rooted corruption and nepotism, and thus earn goodwill for the party and a bouquet of 80 MPs for Modi in the 2019 General Election.
Yogi’s credentials, notwithstanding his ochre-colour robe, were ideal for the kind of the onerous task envisaged for him by the Modi-Shah duo. Yogi is without doubt extremely honest, has administrative experience as he manages a string of muths and trusts, is bold and knows no fear, to the point that he can be ruthless, works 18 hours a day and the charge of being a Hindu religion protagonist can hardly be sustained against him. During his five terms as MP, of the 20–odd speeches by him in the Lok Sabha, only two related to religious issues.
The curiosity, rather than mere interest, to know the record of 100 days rule of such a specially picked person as chief minister was natural. The media has extensively analysed the performance of the government. The interest is not in Yogi’s record of successes or failures per se, but to conclude from his record whether he has been able to fulfil Modi’s trust in him to win through good work, people’s support and goodwill. Shah and Modi aim to win all the 80 seats, in 2014 the BJP won with allied parties 73 seats.
No one can doubt Yogi’s sincerity in trying to work towards securing all of 80 seats for the BJP. But UP has a population of over 22 crore –as an independent nation it would be the sixth largest country in the world—and to keep them happy cannot be easy, worse it has a very complex caste ratio, and with two caste-based parties—Samajwadi Party promoting Yadavs and Muslims and Bahujan Samaj Party promoting Dalits and Muslims—it is not easy to make Dalits and Yadavs desert “their” respective party and vote for BJP.
Yogi can hardly afford to make any mistakes. He has not so far it seems’ for, with his typical grin he said, “We are satisfied with the work we have done in the first 100 days of our government,” and then added that his government was working for all sections of the society without any discrimination.
The mahant-turned-politician, in the week before he took oath as chief minister on March 19, had issued about 30 directives. Then he delayed the first Cabinet meet until April 4, when he could issue order waiving Rs 36000 crore loan of farmers, which was Modi’s poll promise. He had said that the first order of a BJP government if elected will be for waiving off farmers’ loans.
Asserting that his government was working for the welfare of famers’ he informed that the state is buying five times more wheat from them … Waiving off loans has not affected the developmental works. It has benefitted 86 lakh farmers,” he said.
Mentioning one of his pivotal measures, Yogi said women in the state feel safer after the formation of anti-Romeo squads to tackle sexual harassment in public spaces. Reportedly, over 13 lakh complaints were made, out of which in almost seven lakh cases the boys’ parents were informed to take corrective measure. Around 14000 cases were registered, in the rest police warning was given.
He admitted that complaints were received of police misusing their power harassing married couples or friends and clarified that punitive actions were taken, also fresh guidelines have been issued.
Trusted by Modi, Yogi government has brought out a booklet aptly titled ‘100 Din Vishwas Ke’ highlighting his government’s achievements in the last 100 days, which was released at a press conference in Lucknow. Releasing it he said, “We are satisfied with the work we have done in the first 100 days of our government.” The chief minister also said announced that January 24 will be celebrated as ‘Uttar Pradesh Day’ every year.
The report card of what he has been able to initiate or accomplish (see box) is impressive. But it will be unfair to assess, in a short period of 100 days, the ability or capability of Yogi Adityanath to win people’s goodwill, the responsibility entrusted to him by Modi and secure support to win all the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state. For, to comfort and please 22 crore people, surfeit with divisions, disputes which take no time to turn into a law and order situation, is a formidable challenge.
And to deal with these tasks, Yogi inherited a thoroughly corrupt administration with latent caste leanings and a bureaucracy which forgot the words like honesty, fairness and that they have duties towards the people. The immediate hurdles in cleaning the system and tune it into a development mode was corruption from top to bottom, havoc in rural areas by members of a particular caste, who enjoyed immunity from rules of law, devastating effect on administration of chacha-bhatija’s unashamed open war to wrest power.
How much stamina and perseverance Yogi has to deal with the sudden rise in crime (VP Singh did not have the patience and had resigned) and worse to subdue the saffron outfits who have running riot in the state, will determine three crucial issues, whether he can streamline the state into a highly developed part of the country, improve the quality of life of the poor and is able to provide all modern amenities, like toilets, electricity, healthcare, schools and transport.
GOVERNMENT’S THREE NEW INITIATIVES: STATUS CHECK
Started with much fanfare, the campaign drew criticism from different quarters, including rival political parties, for alleged moral policing and harassment of consenting couples. It still exists, but in a low-key manner. These squads are being trained in Lucknow on ‘soft skills’. The government maintains that this has served as a deterrent.
Illegal slaughterhouse crackdown
The role of the police was confined to assisting municipal authorities and civic administration. Officials believe that it helped in streamlining legal slaughterhouses. But a crackdown was not sustainable, because it disrupted supplies and livelihood, including in rural areas. As long as slaughter is not being done publicly, near bazaars or temples, the police turn a blind eye.
Anti-land mafia taskforce
The government is banking heavily on these units to recover public land that has been encroached upon, even in the name of religion, and help private citizens whose property has been confiscated by an organised land mafia – a major source of disputes and killings in the state. If this drive succeeds, police officials claim it will bring down crime drastically.
The scale of BJP victory itself has become a problem for the party. “100 of the BJP’s MLAs are probably liabilities for the party. They make demands which will hurt governance.”
According to a report this is what happened in a case in Moradabad. A Hindu group alleged that a Hindu girl who had been going for tuitions was being harassed by her Muslim tutor. The girl or her family had not complained. Yet, the local police registered a complaint.
“This was probably done as a way to appease local sympathisers of the party in power, even though there was no instruction from the top,” said an official.
He has begun well in creating and providing all the above mentioned amenities. It hardly matters if pot- holes could not be filled by June 15, at least around 88000 kms of roads have been repaired. Villages are being provided power on a priority basis, and hutments of the poor have been fitted with metres without any payment.
The development plans are progressing satisfactorily but Yogi Adityanath government is under pressure to curb rising violence by right-wing Hindu groups that escalated since last month. Despite the new DGP’s warning of crackdown on hooligans, rightwingers haven’t stopped their violence.
Their violence has put the Yogi Adityanath government under pressure to curb vigilante groups going on rampage. Violence involving them has been reported from various parts of Uttar Pradesh. This is proving to be an embarrassment for the Yogi Adityanath government.
CHALLENGES GALORE, BUT YOGI SET TO ‘OVERCOME’
The Congress Party would have us believe that the 100 days of Yogi Adityanath’s government have had more misses than hits. It seems that for Rahul Gandhi’s party, a state is like a goal post. The achievements and failures can never be tabulated. For example, success in getting rid of potholes in 88000 kms in 100 days or electrification of villages that has been going on at a fast pace, so that all the villages are electrified by the next year, with assured supply of power between 7pm and 5am in rural areas and 24 hour supply in urban areas, are by themselves commendable achievements and cannot be weighed against failure to hold panchayat election.
The Congress leaders seem to have decided that Yogi Adityanath will not be able to raise funds for the farm loan-waiver, and are highlighting the spike in crime.
It is true that the loan-waiver is making finance department burn the midnight oil in trying all permutations and combination to offload the sudden fiscal burden of nearly Rs 36,369 crore. This coupled with Rs 34,000 crore for the implementation of the seventh pay commission recommendations, has put an additional burden of a whopping over Rs 70,000 crore on the state’s coffers.
The government faces other major challenges including of arranging funds for mega projects like the Purvanchal e-way. The government itself has admitted it could manage to make just 63 perc ent of the state roads pothole-free by the 15 June deadline set by the chief minister.
Distribution of free laptops among students—mentioned in the BJP’s ‘sankalp patra’ (election manifesto) — is another challenge confronting the Yogi government, which was inaugurated on 19 March. No date has been announced for the scheme to be launched.
With certain law and order incidents, especially caste and communal clashes, threatening to eclipse the achievements of the 45-year-old saffron-clad chief minister, his officials are going the extra mile to ensure there is no dent in BJP’s image in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The volatile situation, which could trigger communal inferno, even forced chief minister Yogi Adityanath to send a clear message of ‘zero tolerance’ on law and order front. He has been reiterating that anyone taking law in his hands will be severely dealt with.
The spate of crimes and the riot in Saharanpur have provided the opposition, the Congress, to badger Yogi. But he is no softie, as he bluntly said that his government will come down on culprits heavily, ithout any discrimination.
The zero tolerance stand and the stern warning by UP’s director general of police, Sulkhan Singh that no vigilantism in the name of cow slaughter and harassment of girls would be tolerated.
Manoj Dixit, head of department of public administration, Lucknow University, said the BJP government needs to check rowdy elements breaking the law in the name of cow vigilantism and social policing.“If the government fails to check acts of violence, what will be the difference left
between previous Samajwadi Party government and the present Yogi regime? The SP government’s failure on law and order front was one of the reasons that led to its defeat in the assembly election,” he added.
The Professor was right. The situation became very grim. Anyone glancing through newspapers reads a petrol pump owner looted; a trader murdered; jewellery shops robbed; a political leader killed; a constable shot; four members of a family–including two girls–hacked; a police sub-inspector beaten up; caste clashes erupt.
These headlines would be enough to tell you that the Yogi Adityanath government, celebrating its 100 days in office, had been struggling to keep up a promise that played a big role in its thumping election victory: Improving law and order is an issue that makes and breaks governments in the state.
10 MAJOR CRIME INCIDENTS
May 2: Activists of Hindu Yuva Vahini allegedly kill a middle-aged Muslim man Mohammad Gulam in Sohi in Bulandahahar after a Rajput woman eloped with a Muslim.
May 9: Two young sisters, daughters of a retired defence personnel, murdered with their throat slit inside their Ram Vihar colony residence in Para.
May 15: Two jewellers, Megh and Vikas Agarwal, shot dead and two others seriously injured at busy Holi gate market of Mathura city. Assailants fled with jewellery worth several crores.
May 15: In gruesome case of alleged honour killing, a couple hacked to death in Saidpur area of Badaun.
May 17: Anurag Tewari, 2007 Karnatka cadre IPS officer, found dead on road under mysterious circumstances on Meera Bai Marg.
May 21: Alleged Hindu Yuva Vahini members drag couple out of house in Meerut, thrash man.
May 22: A Muslim cleric shot dead in a mosque at Naseerpur village in Mau.
Jun 1: Vice-president of BJP’s minority wing of Bareilly, Raees Ahmed, shot dead in broad daylight.
June 23: A 19-year-old girl was killed after being thrown out of a taxi in Madiaon allegedly for resisting a rape bid.
In these 100 days, Adityanath’s government admits that crime has spiked – it, however, is not panicking yet. One believes it can get things under control, and is contemplating tough measures, including ‘encounters’. It wants to maintain order but visibly failed in Saharanpur – where Thakurs and Dalits were locked in violent clashes and tension persisted for weeks. The incident also revealed how the government would confront challenges from its own newly emboldened political constituents.
Three broad explanations are being made for the surge in crime. A top official says this is because the reporting of crimes has increased. “We are encouraging people to come to us. That is why you see an increase in numbers. This is part of improving law and order. Once action begins on them, you will see it serve as a deterrent.”
Another explanation is that this is a period of transition. Aditya Mishra, additional director general of police with direct charge of law and order, told reporters, “After the formation of the new government, the police machinery was being overhauled. Criminal gangs are taking benefit of the change in the police set up.”
In 100 days Yogi Adityanath faltered only on law and order promise. But Yogi is a doughty fighter; he is not given to panicking, and is confident that he can get things under control with tough measures, including encounters. The initial mistake he made was not to transfer en mass’ police personnel, thinking it would appear he was being vindictive. And now that changes have been effected it will take time before new officer fully understand their areas.
CM is a man of detail, who is keen to micro manage, but who is yet to evolve a clear equation with the bureaucracy. While being the boss, he is under close check — for the Centre and the BJP are both very closely monitoring Lucknow’s governance.
One thing has been settled in these 100 days. Yogi is a man of masses and knows what people want. He goes into all aspects and studies in detail all plans and measures he initiates. This is why despite all kinds of hurdles and handicaps, many of his schemes have succeeded, even if partially.
He has instituted a mass contact programme, where citizens come up with complaints. Ministers and officials have to listen to it, and notes are sent out to concerned departments. A district official says, “He takes it seriously. I have also got follow-up messages from the chief minister’s office (CMO) on whether action has been taken.”
“All departments made presentations to him in the initial days, and he got a sense of their functioning and schemes. Then he held divisional meetings and has already visited 17 out of 18 divisions,” a CMO official says. This period also saw delivery of some of the BJP’s manifesto promises, from anti-Romeo squads to crackdown on slaughterhouses, from farm-loan waiver to increase in electricity supply.
In all this though, Yogi could not establish harmonious relation with the bureaucracy. But now a large number of senior officials have been sent from the Centre and they are now key advisers of Yogi. Hundred days have established that Yogi cannot be dislodged, as he is a man of the masses. And they are going to be happier with him as Yogi’s schemes are implemented in full.
The ochre-colour robed mahant, is firmly on the road to escort modi in 2019 to his goal post.
By Vijay Dutt