100 Days of Yogi

The Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government of Uttar Pradesh completes its nascent 100 days on 25 June. Here’s a look at all the headlines it made while in office and the key challenges it faces.  

Policy announcements: agriculture and connectivity

A major policy was the farm loan waiver, an important electoral promise, which would cost the treasury Rs. 36,369 crore. While it provides immediate relief, the benefits are limited to only one-third of the farmers (since several obtain loans from non-institutional sources) and fails to deal with structural issues of low agricultural incomes and implements, fragmentation of landholdings and crop failures.

The loan waiver, however, was an important political move. Since farmers constitute a majority in UP and are a powerful vote-bank, their interests are at the heart of an incumbent government. Agrarian politics in UP earlier splintered along caste lines, with the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party being key actors. An economic policy at heart, the government aims to reset the debate to interests of farmers as a class, not several castes.

The key challenge here would be putting together the funds for such a mammoth policy. According to an RBI study of state budgets, UP’s capital expenditure on agriculture and allied activities and rural development in 2015-16 was merely Rs 6,221.2 crore. A monumental deficit of Rs. 30,000 crore for the implementation is then required. Non-implementation of a scheme such as this may prove to be fatal for the government, already under fire.

The government has not announced any other major scheme or big infrastructural projects. A few announcements such as building 6,000 check dams in Bundelkhand (drought-prone area) have been drowned by the sheer scale of the waiver. The government attempted to shift focus from agriculture to industrial policies and sought to invite companies to set up factories in UP, planning to set up airports at Allahabad and Gorakhpur (Yogi Adityanath’s constituency) but all eyes are on the debt bonds.  

Other promises such as making UP pothole-free by 15 June and distributing free laptops to students (a continuation from the Akhilesh Yadav government) have been non-starters, but they have not invited much opposition censure or media scrutiny.

Saffron politics

The UP government has also resorted to communal sentiments in its decision-making. Its crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses was seen as insensitive to Muslim and Dalit livelihoods and lifestyles. While the government claimed it was only shutting down illegal operations, half of UP’s licensed slaughterhouses were also shut down. The meat, livestock and leather industries were hit hard.

Anti-romeo squads were instated to fight harassment of women. Consisting of mostly vigilantes (they may consist of the police but are outside the purview of law), these groups have been reported to harass couples and innocent men – inviting criticism of “moral policing”. A few surveys such as one conducted by Gaon Connection (a rural media platform) show their popularity among rural women who feel safer. Urban women, on the other hand, use feminist critiques of protectionism and curtailment of freedom to condemn the body.  

The government has also been appropriating political symbols. It aims to rename the Mughalsarai railway station after RSS ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhayaya. The CM supported gifting the Gita or Ramayana to foreign dignitaries, instead of Taj Mahal replicas which “do not reflect Indian culture”. The Hindutva ideology which sees the Mughals as Muslims invaders, and thus not Indian, seems to be at the heart of the government’s decision-making. The line between religion and state is being dangerously blurred and maintaining the chasm is a challenge for the coming days.

Law and order: caste and communalism

Allegations of “gunda raj” are in the air in UP again. In Sahranpur, clashes between the Dalits and Thakurs emerged, when Dalit houses were torched. The UP government is seen as the government of the Kshatriyas, and caste conflict has worsened “lower” caste alienation. The Bhim Army, which believes in violent response from the Dalits, has filled the legitimacy void that BSP left and is proving to be a challenger to the government, even staging a popular rally in Delhi.

While caste has always been on the agenda in UP, politics since the 1990s were dominated by the “lower” castes – nearing a bipartisan struggle between the BSP and the SP. UP is thus witnessing its first “upper” caste government after nearly two decades of subaltern rule.

In Bulandshahr meanwhile, a Muslim man was lynched by alleged members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini (founded by Adityanath). This punishment was for an act of “love jihad”, as the man eloped with a Hindu girl prior to the lynching. While the CM has frequently condemned the actions of vigilantes, communal violence remains high and poses a key challenge to the government, the verdict on which would also reflect on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Communalism also dominated the politics of the state prior to BJP rule. Communal riots broke out in Muzaffarpur in 2013 under SP rule. The Yogi government has been under fire from critics for its inability or curb its own fringe groups.

 

The UP government will be releasing a white paper on its achievements of the first 100 days soon. However, it must also take cognisance of the failures on certain fronts and take appropriate action to fulfill its promises and project a clean image if it wants to retain and regain power.

Image source: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/haryana-education-minister-defends-violence-cow-vigilante-groups-new-lawsawakened-cow-lovers/1/702827.html
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