Mulayam faces uphill battle in UP
Arundhati Dhuru and Sandeep Pandey
4 April 2007
Mulayam Singh Yadav is desperately trying to convey a feeling of well being through big Amitabh Bachchan hoardings in Uttar Pradesh claiming that the state is doing quite well. The need to launch such a high profile campaign betrays the fact that things are not too rosy. Hence he has not just left it to these hoardings. Even before other leaders could get into a full fledged election campaign mode, Mulayam Singh was already on his feet, addressing several political rallies every day. One of the hoardings says that crime rate in UP is comparatively lower.
However, anybody with a real experience at police stations will tell you that it is quite difficult to register cases. In fact, police stations have instructions that, if they can help it, they do not have to register certain types of cases and the number of cases registered per month should not exceed a prescribed quota. Once we were trying to register a case of Public Distribution Scheme food grain caught at somebody's place right opposite the Atrauli police station in Hardoi district.
The SHO politely told us that he would register the case on the 1st of next month as he had already crossed the quota for number of cases for that particular month. Hence, the less the cumulative number of cases registered in all police stations of UP shows up in Lucknow, the better is the law and order situation in the state. What a fantastic way of controlling crime!While the BJP ruled states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have effectively implemented the NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), giving people work as well as claiming the credit for it, Mulayam Singh government decided to not take the NREGS seriously. Instead, he offered an unemployment allowance for educated youth. The message was clear. Why do you need to work to earn wages when you can get Rs 500 per month for free? He continued to play the game of one-upmanship with the Congress for most of his present duration as chief minister.
His political engagement did not allow him time for governance. More than 40 starvation deaths, mostly in eastern UP, have taken place during his regime. One farmer, on an average, per day has been committing suicide in Bundelkhand for the last five years. The government is viewed as a criminal friendly government. And yet, he has the audacity to make pompous claims about Uttam Pradesh. It is a cruel joke with the people. People do not pardon such gimmicks. During the last Lok Sabha elections when the BJPwas trying to make people feel good with its 'India Shining' slogan, while farmers continued to commit suicide and the gap between the rich and the poor widened, the common people of India comprehensively rejected the BJP's idea. We are in a similar situation in UP. The government's claims do not reflect the reality on ground and people will definitely teach Mulayam a lesson.The Communist Party of India-Marxist extended staunch support to the Mulayam government when it faced danger of being dismissed under Article 356, as it now becomes clear, to defend it own crimes in West Bengal. It has lost all its natural and traditional allies in UP because of its anti-people stand and is doomed like its senior partner, the Samajwadi Party.
Mulayam's exit will make way for Mayawati to return to power. UP has now begun to resemble Tamil Nadu. Two regional parties rule by turn. When people become sick of one of them after a term, they bring the other back. And, they keep switching between the two. While Mulayam may have allowed the state to slip into a state of lawlessness, we must remember how we desperately wanted Mayawati out, the last time she was chief minister. Mayawati will definitely control the law and order situation. But she is autocratic. Mulayam's rule has at least some semblance of democracy and there is room for some dissent. With Mayawati it is only her writ which runs.
The Bahujan Samaj Party is probably the only major party not to have any manifesto. Since Mayawati has centralised all powers, there is no structure in the party and no system of resolving grievances through dialogue. This is the reason it was so easy for Mualyam to stage a coup last time and encourage defections from her party. If only Mayawati was slightly more democratic, she would have been effectively able to counter the challenge posed by Mulayam.
However, in the situation that BSP is not able to muster enough support to form a government, Kalyan Singh may reclaim the chief ministership with outside support of Samajwadi Party. This will bring back communal rule to UP, which will not be good for the state. Since Mulayam has been honeymooning with BJP now for sometime, in the hope that BJP will some day support his candidature for prime ministership (remember how Chandrashekhar became PM with some 40 MPs or V P Singh became PM with outside support of both the left and the right), this possibility is not completely ruled out. This is the reason Mulayam Singh's government has allowed communal forces a free hand in places like Mau and Gorakhpur during the past two or three years.
A communal riot or tension, polarises the Hindu votes in favour of BJP but, in reaction, it also polarises the Muslim votes in favour of Mulayam. Mulayam still remains the best bet for the Muslims in UP. The Congress remains essentially an outsider in the game. The best role it can fulfill is to provide the remaining numbers to Mayawati to form a government if BSP falls short of a clear majority. Their star campaigner Rahul Gandhi is not effective beyond the boundaries of Amethi. His claim that a member of Gandhi family may have prevented the fall of Babri Masjid may not be true but his confession that anybody else may not even be able to win the election in Amethi is certainly true. He doesn't hold any post in Delhi but still he spends most of his time there instead of nursing his constituency. The problem with the Congress party is that it aspires to become a force to reckon with without the will to do any hard work at the grassroots.
It relies too much on the politics of waves. But unfortunately there is no wave in favour of Congress for quite some time in UP.The most uncertain element in UP politics is Ajit Singh. He should hold some sort of record now for having changed his political partners the maximum number of times. Which way he'll go is unpredictable.There seemed to be lot of promise in Jan Morcha when it was launched with much fanfare. However, Raj Babbar and V P Singh have not been able to capitalise on the initial gains. They did not set up a mechanism to incorporate different political parties which were willing to go along with them. They were probably too hopeful of striking a deal with Congress. This let them down. Udit Raj is working hard to emerge as an alternative Dalit leader.
He has also been willing to accommodate other interests. If he continues to put in the hard work, he may gain in numerical strength to be counted in UP politics. He has already struck a deal with Beni Prasad Verma. The Indian Justice Party along with the CPI, the CPI(ML), Rashtrawadi Communist Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Loktantrik Samajwadi Party, Republican Party of India and Samajwadi Jan Parishad are a few parties which have been raising the issues of the marginalised. As acts like the RTI and NREGS create more grassroots awareness for democracy, the common people are going to voice their concerns through these parties, even thought they may not play an important role in government formation.
Sandeep Pandey is a Magsaysay Awardee 2002 and both (Sandeep and Arundhati) are senior social activists. They can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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