By Haider Abbas
UP is heading for the biggest battle in the next six-months, as it is to hit the elections along with other four-states, namely Punjab, Mizoram, Goa and Uttarakhand, but the election-pivot is what is UP, primarily for the huge political weight it carries as it has 403 assembly seats and send 80 parliamentarians at the national level. The countdown to the ultimate battle in UP has begun, particularly between BJP CM Ajay Singh Bisht and the face of the most powerful incumbent alternative: Akhilesh Yadav.
The ruling party in UP as well as in Center is of BJP, and quite understandably, there is a spurt in Youtube News channels, all out to further the electoral dividends from BJP, a La Ajit Anjum types, apart from hundreds of others to tap into the mood of UP. But, amid the din of rhetoric a news channel Desh Bandu Live, which is in public since 1959, and has a knack for objectivity and transparency, had also come-up with an Opinion Poll on August 28, in which it deployed a survey team for 15 days, with a set of 11 questionnaires and contacted 43,000 people-a 100 per seat in UP. Out of these 18422 people were directly contacted, 12454 were telephoned and 9424 were lined-up through social-media. Utmost non-partisanship and transparent precision is what makes this survey-a-cut-above-the-rest.
It is in fact a report card of CM AS Bisht in which 43% respondents called development under him to be under bad and worse category. This is where the development slogan of PM Narendra Modi gets punctured as once he had pledged, in 2014, to make Varanasi a second Singapore (sic). It therefore is not surprising that the BJP government co-opted a West Bengal flyover as one of its major achievements and had to hurriedly withdraw it the advertorial. It may be reiterated that while BJP is both in UP and Center, it could not provide ‘any new Metro train’, which SP CM Akhilesh Yadav (2012-17) gifted to the state capital in record timings. Despite, Lucknow BJP MP and the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh (2014-19) trying every bit to stonewall the project. Lucknow Metro has been the fastest ever metro-rail-system in the nation. Jai Prakash Narain International Center, Police Headquarters Signature building, Palassio Mall, Janeshwar Mishra Park, HCL IT City, AMUL Dairy plant and the masterpiece Lok Bhawan opposite Vidhan Sabha have been the hallmarks of the previous Akhilesh Yadav government. Even Mayawati gifted Lucknow a sprawling Ambedkar Park and other memorials. Does the present government has anything equal to even half of number of these milestones? Perhaps no! Can there be also any question about India getting to the would-be bullet train?
The second most important aspect which touches every life is employment and 46 % found it to be in bad and worst section. UP which has always reeled under unemployment and whose migrants reach far-off to fend for food, were set to be hit for worse as COVID-19 pandemic ravaged through UP leaving millions not only unemployed but with no jobs and no food too! There had been thousands of stories of starvation strewn all across the state of UP. As a mark of protest, there is a trend to celebrate ‘unemployment-day’ coinciding with the birthday of Narendra Modi every September 17. The story today is not about jobs ‘to have been given or created’ but jobs snatched instead. The world largest democracy has more than 80 crore Indians are living below the poverty line!
On the question of law-and-order, the ‘Thok Do’ sarkar had to earn some brownie points but all which has turned-to-be-hollow, notwithstanding the horrendous rape cases of Unnao and Hathras. UP stand out with flying colours in terms of encounters, police shootouts, branded as gangsters, thrown under NSA, UAPA etc yet how about criminals getting killed while inside jails? Munna Bajrangi and very lately three criminals, in Chitrakoot, were killed in jail! The killing of Vikas Dubey in police encounter etc is all etched-on peoples mind. Swami Chinmayanand, a former BJP minister was accused of rape and the case against him was withdrawn. CM AS Bisht also withdrew the cases against himself. SC, no doubt, gave a tight slap on BJP face by its order that such cases cannot be withdrawn until a nod from HC is sought, or else the cases against the accused of Muzzaffarnagar riots -2013 were all to have been withdrawn by now.
On the count of corruption, BJP always has used it for its clean-governance, but the truth if that If there was no censorship on the corruption deals everything was to have been bare-open. There is no debate on such lines, in mainstream media, the way it was once when UPA government was in office, as if the then UPA had become synonymous with corruption, but those corruptions-did-not-turned-to-be? Anna Hazare, who stood for anti-corruption has been on a sleeping mode since the advent of BJP in 2014. How the problem of farmers, which is raging in the country since nine months, but the BJP government is unrelenting to withdraw its three-anti-farmer-laws, will affect BJP prospects, is what 56% feel in the survey. Farmers are fighting BJP as its purpose, is to adhere this entire sector to Corporate. This is a major issue to snowball in the coming elections, even if BJP wants to contain the Jat sentiment by laying-down the foundation of a university in the name of a Jat King Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh, as Rakesh Singh Tikait, the figure behind the farmers protest is from the Jat clan. Ironically, Raja MP Singh once defeated AB Vajpayee, the BJP icon, in 1957.
How the present CM AS Bisht have fared in terms of law and order, can be gauged from an open fact that during the tenures of two of his predecessors i.e. Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, there had been no murders reported from inside jails and also from from inside CJM chambers ( Bijnor) too! It hadn’t been that late when the sitting 200 BJP MLAs sat on a protest inside Vidhan Sabha that UP police does not listen to them. This speaks well as to how law-and-order has been groomed in the present era. SC had to call ‘there was a jungle-raj in UP’ on October 18, 2019, informed Amar Ujala. The issue of sugarcane prices also has to play an important role and all what AS Bisht could do was to increase the price from Rs 305/quintal to Rs 315/quintal in the last four and a half years. Therefore, in order to redeem his graph AS Bisht has decided to withdraw the FIRs against sugarcane farmers accused of burning the crop residue.
The general mood of the voters pertaining to the issues which will influence the voting pattern is development, where there is a blank, on employment the situation is as bad as telling, and caste lines will draw for only 11 %, as per survey, which means 89% will vote for other issues like law-and-order and farmers movement, and here BJP is already drawing a flak. The shooting of prices on everything eatable is the worst hit in UP, in COVID-19 pandemic the burning pyres of thousands around the riverbeds is a telling tale as UP government could not even manage adequate Oxygen! There is no job for labourers who are forced to live a life in penury while on the Rama Temple, the only plank of BJP, is where the most blatant and rampant corruption in land-deals has got erupted. How the atmosphere will pulverize the voting pattern is of course communalism and polarization on religious lines, as there is now an increase of Muslim lynching and incidents of Kanpur(E-rickshaw puller was beaten), Mathura ( suspected cattle smuggler was killed) and anti-Muslim sloganeering was reported from Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, all set to communalize the atmosphere to the advantage of BJP.
The big issue is will AS Bisht repeat as CM? Is now what seems to be a distant dream, in the wake of this survey, unless something stunning happens on communal lines, as BJP has been best only into changing the names of the cities etc, or else BJP may also bring the situation of Afghanistan into the middle, as Pakistan has long rescued the BJP fortunes. Last but not the least are the images of IPS Amitabh Thakur who was forcibly retired and dragged into a police van before the media! For sporting some differences with the government.
No wonder, the CJI NV Ramana on August 27, had to chastise that police has become the arm of the ruling party. “They side with one political party and commit hara-kiri.” Hara Kiri is what UP has been all about in the last around five-years, what will happen in the next six-months is only time would tell.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner, a lawyer and a political analyst.