Against the backdrop of the opposition closing ranks on the CAA issue and the BJP faring poorly in several state elections recently, the 2022 electoral battle is unlikely to be a cakewalk for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, reports Virendra Singh Rawat.
On December 17, when Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was canvassing for Bharatiya Janata Party candidates in Jharkhand, more than 100 party legislators in his own state were protesting on the Vidhan Sabha precincts against the alleged high-handedness of police and district officials.
While attempts by senior UP ministers failed to assuage frayed tempers, what added insult to injury was the display of solidarity by opposition Samajwadi Party benches with their protesting brethren and the camaraderie that the contentious issue generated beyond party affiliations.
Upon his return, Adityanath resorted to quick damage control by meeting BJP MLAs.
But, the widespread violence and arson during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest in the state capital two days later (on December 19) put a big question mark on the efficiency of law enforcement and intelligence under his stewardship.
The Adityanath dispensation, which had been soaking in self-acclaimed glory of maintaining peace in the aftermath of the Supreme Court verdict in the vexed Ayodhya case on November 9, was suddenly dealing with a spiral of violent protests across the state, including in major cities of Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Prayagraj, Ghaziabad, and Rampur.
Several people were killed in these incidents and scores of others, including policemen, were injured.
The violence made big headlines in the national media, putting the party leadership on the back foot.
Nonetheless, the twin incidents of BJP legislators protesting against police and the much-publicised deterioration in the law and order situation took the wind out of the smooth sails of Adityanath towards the end of 2019.
These developments not only prompted critics to raise pertinent questions about the leadership style of Adityanath but augured the ushering in of 2020 with a platter of challenges for him as the BJP prepares for the 2022 Assembly election.
“Yogi Adityanath is reckoned for his iron fist rule with regard to maintaining law and order. However, the incidents of violence in Lucknow and other cities have dented that image. These also indicate the CM needs to rein in the state executive, which is perceptibly not functioning according to the wishes of the ruling dispensation,” political commentator Pramod Goswami said.
He further noted that the rather rebellious stance taken by BJP MLAs in the state legislature was unprecedented in UP and was understandably the outburst of the legislators at the state leadership and the government failing to strike a balance between governance and party organisation.
“Since officials have been told to go strictly by the rule book, it sometimes leads to friction at the local level with people’s representatives finding themselves helpless to air their valid grievances. At the same time, it also breaks the conventional system of maintaining checks and balances between the government and the ruling party organisation,” he opined.
Besides, the talk of rivalry between Adityanath and some of his senior Cabinet colleagues, including deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, keeps doing the rounds in the corridors of power.
This is reckoned as a major contributing factor to the CM failing to get the required cooperation from all wings of government and party structure.
Although Adityanath got the CM’s post on a platter post the stupendous victory of the BJP in the 2017 UP polls, he led the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to trump anti-incumbency and the formidable SP-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in UP, helping the national party scoop 62 of the 80 parliamentary seats in the state.
However, against the backdrop of the opposition closing ranks on the CAA issue and the BJP faring poorly in several state elections recently, the 2022 battle is unlikely to be a cakewalk for the party.
In his address after unveiling a 25-foot bronze statue of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lucknow on December 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had lauded Adityanath and his “team” for their good work in the fields of sanitation and health care.
While it was seen as an endorsement of Adityanath and to dispel any notion of his replacement, political pundits regarded the PM’s statement as an implicit underscoring of the imperative of keeping law and order intact in the state.
With the Congress adopting an aggressive strategy against the Adityanath government under the party’s general secretary in charge of UP, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who stages sit-ins or meets the victims of various crimes, the BJP has the task cut out for 2020.
A senior BJP leader said Adityanath was not only among the most popular party leaders but also ranked one of the most influential politicians in India, which bore testimony to his leadership quality.
“Disconcerted at good governance and the rising popularity of the CM, vested political interests are trying to create disturbances in UP. However, the state government will deal with such elements strictly and expose their nefarious designs,” he added.