Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav proves to be a disappointment

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Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav proves to be a disappointment

Post  Guest on Sun Sep 15, 2013 11:28 am

Two excellent articles--by Chanakya in Hindustan Times, and Shekhar Gupta in Indian Express-- showering completely appropriate and well directed criticism at Akhilesh Yadav, the young CM of UP who came to office with high hopes and expectations but has proven to be a complete disappointment.


The fault lies in us. We were bedazzled by this young lad with his foreign education, his seeming lack of baggage, his promises of ending Uttar Pradesh’s goonda raj, his easy manner, his refusal to speak the language of caste and religion. This explains how great our disappointment has been now
that he has turned out no better, in fact, worse than his predecessors, notably his father, or netaji as he calls him. I am speaking, of course, of Akhilesh Yadav, the dynast with a difference, or so I thought.

For a start, I wonder what kind of politician he is. The communal conflagration, which is just about ebbing in the state, is a sinister political plot aimed at polarising the vote-bank. If Akhilesh had an iota of political savvy, he would have seen this for what it is and acted fast to quell it. Or is it that his own party was dabbling in a bit of communal politics, never mind, if it meant that people lost their lives? Any political novice could have told you that this flare-up did not happen spontaneously; it was cleverly designed and executed.

I was quite willing to give Akhilesh a long rope when he took over. ‘Come on, he is young and governing a place like UP is a task that could defeat even a seasoned politician,’ many said, and I concurred. But once you are in the chief minister’s chair, govern you must. And I have yet to see any evidence that Akhilesh has even tried. Even so, I think few expected the sort of communal conflagration that has claimed so many lives in UP. And did Akhilesh look even remotely worried? Not at all. Like a cynical politician he coolly blamed everyone but his own administration for the failure of law and order. Social media was blamed, the BJP was blamed, political opponents were blamed, but nowhere did he say mea culpa....

The recent riots, one in a long line after Akhilesh took over, were eminently containable. At the first hint of violence, Akhilesh could have taken steps to crack down on the miscreants and contained the situation. Instead, like a cynical politician, he sought to make political capital out of the situation. After several days of violence, he lamely told us that he had given a free hand to the district administrations to deal with the situation. Was the administration’s hands tied in the first place?...

Comparisons are odious, but UP did not witness such communal violence under Mayawati, though god knows she had her share of faults.



Read this along with Akhilesh's embarrassingly mindless act of turning out in a Muslim skull cap at the peak of the riots. It was politically and symbolically even worse than Narendra Modi refusing to wear a similar cap presented by a Muslim clergyman. Let me try to explain why.

First of all, when riots are raging, involving two communities, you can't make a public display of which side you are on. That would be as violative of rajdharma as Modi's performance during the 2002 riots. Second, this indicates a kind of frivolous, trivialising, OB-van directed approach to what is, after all, your first big political and administrative challenge. Third, in any communal riot, no matter what the score (and surely Muslims have suffered much more in Muzaffarnagar), there are innocent victims on both sides. If a ruler tries to finesse this, between them and us, mine and theirs, he needs to get his head — and heart — examined.

Modi has an arguable defence that he doesn't believe in "hollow" symbolism, that he detests minorityism, etc, etc. He, at least, has that argument, though I would contest it. In a diverse democracy, symbolisms are also important, and you have to reach out to the minorities, to reassure them that you won't allow any majoritarian excess. This is not appeasement politics. Or Vajpayee would not have been holding iftars. But then Narendra Modi never claimed to be particularly a friend or protector of Muslims to begin with.

But we are complaining about something even more serious. The changing of Uttar Pradesh's Muslims' political discourse from the laptop to the skull cap. From aspiration back to fear and grievance. That is a big step back in time and history. It negates India's greatest secular success of the past two decades.

This has come just at a time when more and more Muslims were feeling reassured enough to ask their leaders for something more than mere physical survival. In Uttar Pradesh in particular, Mayawati had now given them five perfectly peaceful years. The state's Muslims, therefore, among the poorest Indians anywhere, had begun to move towards the social and economic mainstream. This applies particularly to western Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims have, by and large, seen themselves as equal to fellow Jats and have enjoyed an excellent relationship with them through the centuries. They have been serving in the army and rivalling the Jats in agricultural yields. They happily and confidently drive their motorcycles into neighbouring Delhi, nonchalant in their traditional loose pyjamas, seeing no need to hide their identity, or to "merge". Over the past few years, in fact, you have seen a new phenomenon: of young Muslims, mostly riding motorcycles, in raucous — and peaceful — groups, burning the rubber on Delhi's main avenues late at night to celebrate Shab-e-barat. They wear skull caps for sure, but they are aspiring for the laptop-carrying middle-class status. Akhilesh may have reversed some of this mood now.



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