When BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi boasted at Gorakhpur about his 54-inch chest, he indirectly highlighted the shortcomings of the Uttar Pradesh government.
Where’s power? Where’s good governance? What about law and order? Does the Samajwadi Party have a vision for the state?
These questions are now being debated all over Uttar Pradesh.
Almost two years in office may not be a long time for Samajwadi Party leaders. But those who voted Akhilesh Yadav to power are getting desperate and impatient, thanks to the AAP effect, to see concrete action on his promises to the electorate.
The Aam Aadmi Party is now setting the benchmark in urban areas where the educated youth is restless, the free laptops only helping to sharpen the class differences. How close is the Samajwadi Party to usher in socialist goals and translate into reality the dreams of Ram Manohar Lohia?
Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav himself has expressed dissatisfaction at the lethargic pace of change in the administrative culture. Lower down the hierarchy, it is plain chaos.
“On so many occasions the party leadership has ordered a ban on the use of party flags and beacon lights on vehicles, but party leaders are in no mood to oblige,” says party worker Madhukar Chaturvedi.
The classic case is of Devendra Baghael, husband of Sarika Baghael, MP from Hathras, nominated the Lok Sabha candidate from Agra City. “Every few days he enters a government office and bullies officials. Despite numerous complaints from local party people, he is not being shown the door,” complained Chaturvedi.
Before the Muzaffarnagar communal riots, the party was seen working extra hard to refurbish its image with Muslims. But after the violence, there is no indication how the party plans to contain the negative fallout of the tense situation. “Clearly, the minorities seems to be veering towards the Congress,” says activist Nassir Khan.
How different is this government from the Mayawati government is a subject discussed in political circles. Till date there is no indication how the party intends to provide transparent and less corrupt governance, says Sudheir Gupta, an insurance agent. “Visit any government office, and a depressing and lethargic scenario stares you in the face.”
“With so many experienced leaders, we thought the party would launch an immediate assault on some vexing problems in the state,” says activist and former socialist leader Vinay Paliwal.
The basic issues of development, power generation, law and order, efficient and transparent administrative procedures are yet to be addressed.
Uttar Pradesh’s higher education scenario is in an alarming state, calling for structural changes.
“The worst example is of Agra University where everything is in a rotten state but there is no interest whatsoever to inject a degree of urgency in educational reforms,” notes a student leader, Pavan Kumar.
Distributing computers or cycles is okay but this does not address the fundamental issue of unemployment which can only be attacked by rapid economic growth. “So far we see no major policy pronouncements to speed up industrialization,” points out school teacher Hari Dutt Sharma.
The greens had high hopes from Akhilesh Yadav, who holds a post-graudate degree in environment. They are disappointed as the Samajwadi Party has so far given no indication how rivers in the state will be cleaned up, says “Wake Up Agra” chief Shishir Bhagat, who recently organised a clean-up drive at the Yamuna banks.
The biggest challenge for the ruling party is to restore sanity on roads. Most cities are suffering from increasing encroachment on roads and public land. The guilty are known to have political patronage.
Akhilesh Yadav has to urgently address issues inhibiting industrial growth.
It is a huge responsibility and a big opportunity for Akhilesh Yadav to steer the state towards accelerated growth but does he have the right human resources to achieve this? “He has raised too many hopes. If he fails to deliver, the backlash could disturb the equilibrium,” fears an old Lohiate, Sachchendra Kumar Singh.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at [email protected] The views are personal.)