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Will Akhilesh Yadav 2.0 Be Good For Uttar Pradesh?

07/09/2016 12:44 PM IST | Updated 08/09/2016 8:30 AM IST
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As the Samajwadi Party gears up for the UP State Assembly Elections in 2017, Akhilesh Yadav's young shoulders carry a massive burden. The burden of lawlessness and increasing crime against women. The young Chief Minister believes that his home state is "better in every aspect" and appealed to the people to visit and experience the "real UP" but in the fact is that the "real UP" is overflowing with spine-chilling and horrendous tales of corruption, communal violence, ministers with stained backgrounds, atrocities against women. Akhilesh is trying hard to stop the steam, but his UP is scalding.

Akhilesh Yadav himself has a fairly clean image. But he has been embarrassed by numerous incidents involving his own party men.

Akhilesh's tenure as Chief Minister is bespattered by the muck of the failing law and order situation in UP. That said, SP is the only party in the last many years, which has done some good for the state. Some of the many promises that the party has fulfilled include vast pension schemes, a 1090 helpline for women, ambulance service, the digitization of government departments, distribution of laptops and tablets to meritorious students, bicycles given to girls, employment generation schemes, dissemination of cheques under welfare schemes etc. These measures have definitely won the party some brownie points. The state exchequer is debt free and that is something! To pave way for the coming elections, Akhilesh is in a hurry to give a makeover to the state by rolling out six major projects. Five out of these are in the state capital, namely, the Lucknow-Agra Expressway, IT City, a metro, an international cricket stadium and a state-of-the-art cancer hospital. But owing to its large area, UP's remote corners have a long wait to see development.

Akhilesh Yadav himself has a fairly clean image. And his recent resistance to the party's merger with the Quami Ekta Dal has won him applause from many. But he has been embarrassed by numerous incidents involving his own party men. The suspension of a few leaders on charges of land grabbing, and accusations against party workers for beating up policemen and revenue officials, have deteriorated the party's image further. To add to the SP's woes, party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav publicly admitted that his party leaders are busy "looting the people, grabbing land and filling their pockets".

The current political scenario doesn't look very bright for SP. Uttar Pradesh is beset by caste voting. In 2012, SP rode on undivided Yadav and majority Muslim votes. The 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots have definitely made a hole in SP's Muslim vote bank, of which Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is taking full advantage. For the past many elections, the SP and BSP have been playing the cat a mouse game, with each party laden with its own burden -- BSP of corruption scandals and SP of lawlessness. The Congress has lost its ground and looks at a bleak future in UP. While the BSP is banking on Dalit votes, the BJP is trying to unite OBCs and upper castes. Regardless of the developmental achievements to his credit, Akhilesh has to be strong enough to tilt the power imbalance in the Yadav clan in his favour. Even if he succeeds in doing that, control over law and order will be the key issues for the upcoming elections.

Law and order in Uttar Pradesh is paralyzed. The crime rate is on the rise. Gunda raj is rampant. Corruption is widespread. Has SP reached its peak?

The Samajwadi Party's 2012 election manifesto had less than half a page on maintaining law and order in UP. As if to make up for the lack of space in the 23-page declaration, the UP law and order situation is presenting itself many opportunities of grabbing space on the front pages. Violence in Mathura, the murder of a senior cop in Kunda, the Badaun and Bulandshahar rape cases, the beating of women protestors by police... all these present just the tip of the iceberg.

There has been a significant increase in the cases of atrocities against Dalits. There were 7078 cases registered for crime against Scheduled Castes in 2012, a sharp rise from 6202 in the previous year. According to the latest data from National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), the total number of crime incidents rose to 21 lakh in 2013 from 18 lakh in 2012. Crime against women intensified and climbed to 32,546 cases in 2013 from 23,569 in 2012. There were 1983 cases of rape reported in 2012 while in 2013 it rose to 3050. In 2013, 9737 women were kidnapped while in 2012 this figure was 7910. Dowry deaths numbered at 2335 in 2013 while it was 2244 in 2012. The Samajwadi Party blames it on political conspiracy, but statistics don't lie.

If Akhilesh Yadav wants to see another tenure in the Lucknow Vidhan Sabha, he needs to take some strong decisions and come out of his father's shadow.

Needless to say, the law and order situation has deteriorated considerably in Akhilesh's tenure. Two of the UP police's most efficacious divisions in dealing with crime, the Special Task Force (STF) and the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), have lost their powers under the SP rule. This has not only increased gang wars but has also tightened their grasp on local people. Soon after coming to power, the Akhilesh government overturned a decision by his predecessor to not allow postings in home districts for policemen. Not doing so would have been the change the public was hoping for. Lawmakers, the majority of whom are Yadavs, shield the criminals, who also happen to be mostly Yadavs. If cases are not booked against criminals, investigations cannot happen and the culprits cannot be punished. To appease its vote base, Akhilesh Yadav awarded key posts in the UP police to his supporters. Many IPS officers close to the first family have been brought to UP from outside the state. While no direct link can be proved, one is bound to question if the Yadav-ization of police force is at least partly responsible for the sad state of affairs. During SP's rule between 2004 and 2007, the UP government had recruited 21,000 constables but the entire recruitment process was riddled with scams, irregularities and favouritism.

Law and order in Uttar Pradesh is paralyzed. The crime rate is on the rise. The ruling party MLAs consider themselves above law. Gunda raj is rampant. Corruption is widespread. Has SP reached its peak? Is it only downfall from here?

If Akhilesh Yadav wants to see another tenure in the Lucknow Vidhan Sabha, he needs to take some strong decisions and come out of his father's shadow.

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