Challenges galore as Yogi Adityanath completes 100 days as UP CM
Lucknow: As Yogi Adityanath completes 100 days in office this week as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, formidable challenges including funds for the farm loan-waiver, and law and order stare him in his face, with the opposition claiming the misses have outnumbered the hits.
The loan-waiver, a major pre-poll promise of the BJP, is making finance department burn the midnight oil in trying all permutations and combination to offload the sudden fiscal burden of nearly Rs36,369 crore. This coupled with Rs34,000 crore for the implementation of the seventh pay commission recommendations, has put an additional burden of a whopping over Rs70,000 crore on the state’s coffers.
The government faces other major challenges including that of arranging funds for mega projects like the Purvanchal e-way. The government itself has admitted it could manage to make just 63% of the state roads pothole-free by the 15 June deadline set by the chief minister. Distribution of free laptops among students—mentioned in the BJP’s ‘sankalp patra’ (election manifesto)—is another challenge confronting the Adityanath government, which was inaugurated on 19 March.
No date has been announced for the scheme to be launched. With certain law and order incidents, especially caste and communal clashes, threatening to eclipse the achievements of the 45-year-old saffron-clad chief minister. His officials are going the extra mile to ensure there is no dent in BJP’s image in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The chief minister and his cabinet colleagues have already sought more time saying they inherited a “jungle raj” from the Samajwadi Party (SP) government and it would take them some time to set things in order. Soon after being sworn-in, the CM had claimed he would prove his government’s commitment to good governance first by ridding the roads of potholes completely by 15 June.
However, his deputy Keshav Maurya, who also holds the Public Works Department (PWD) portfolio, admitted that out of 1.21 lakh-km of road length, repair works on only about 70,000km had been completed. The condition of roads in Kanpur and PM Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi is particularly bad. Another challenge for the government is holding the urban local body elections by 15 July, when their term expires.
The state election commission was ready and had completed its preparations, but the government itself put off the polls saying the rapid survey of the backward seats was faulty-the survey was conducted under the present BJP regime. Now the elections are likely to be held in October. As the state government prepares to come out with a 100-day achievement document later this week, state Congress spokesperson Dwijendra Tripathi ridiculed the ruling party for making promises that it could not meet.
“Two months of the Adityanath government have not sent out any strong message on any of the issues which were part of BJP’s campaign—improved law-and-order situation and better administration,” he said. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati has alleged that the Dalits, the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) as well as forward castes including Brahmins have been facing “atrocities” in the state—in an apparent attempt to associate Adityanath and his government with Kshatriyas only.
As head of the Gorakhnath Peeth, Adityanath has often associated himself with Kshatriya symbols. He is often seen surrounded by Kshatriyas mostly and he has supported Thakur leaders of other parties too—in 2013, he came out in support of Kunda MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya who was accused of conspiring to kill a deputy superintendent of police. Not known to take frequent barbs at him lying down, ex- chief minister Akhilesh Yadav recently took on the Yogi government, saying, “I never knew officers wielded brooms so well. Now the question is how much filth have they cleared so far?” He said the deadline to make state roads pothole-free by 15 June remained a “pipe dream”.
When asked about the Yogi government’s decision to probe the expressway and river front projects launched during the SP rule, Akhilesh said, “Will this government do any work...or will it only conduct probes? This government should try to do better work than us.” Presently, the entire state machinery—from ministry to departmental level—is working on their 100-day progress reports which will be presented to the public in the form of a “white paper”, an official said.
While the CM is personally reviewing the works, a web-based monitoring system has also been put in place for 73 departments in the state to submit their progress reports, the official said. The government has not announced any major scheme or big-ticket infrastructure projects other than the farm loan-waiver. These are likely to be addressed when the government presents its maiden budget in the next few months.
Adityanath has said that two months is a too short a period to showcase any achievements. Law-and-order and governance, however, remain the primary challenges for Adityanath. It will be a herculean task to change the attitude of the bureaucracy down to the lowest level and make the government machinery responsive to the needs of the public, political observers feel. Adityanath will need to begin the process of change and show tangible results soon in order to satisfy those who voted the BJP, and to stave off anti-incumbency sentiment before the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for 2019, analysts say.
The recent clashes between the Dalits and the Kshatriyas in Saharanpur, several instances of vigilantism in the name of cow protection or moral policing and the run-ins of BJP leaders, including legislators, with police and officials have hindered the new government’s attempts to send out “right signals on good governance”. “The change has started to show in UP since the Yogi government took charge. Well-meaning people are feeling relieved with the closure of illegal slaughterhouses. With the constitution of anti-Romeo squads, anti-social elements harassing women and girls are now in fear.
“Rowdyism is dying and crime graph falling. People’s confidence in the government has been restored,” the state BJP had said in its political resolution at its recent working committee meeting here. But, on the ground, certain recent incidents like caste clashes in Saharanpur and communal violence in Bulandshahr, Sambhal and Gonda gave the law-enforcing agencies sleepless nights—more so as the BJP came to power on the plank of improving law and order, terming the erstwhile Samajwadi Party rule as a “goondaraj”.
In Bulandshahr, members of the Adityanath-founded Hindu Yuva Vahini were alleged to be behind the killing of an aged Muslim man after a “love-jihad-style” elopement. The Bulandshahr incident took place even as Adityanath met senior Yuva Vahini workers during a visit to Gorakhpur and warned them against taking law in their own hands. The attack on Saharanpur SSP’s residence allegedly by BJP activists “led” by local MP Raghav Lakhanpal, hogged the headlines.
And even before the dust settled on the controversy, caste violence broke out in the region. The Samajwadi Party latched onto these developments. “We were termed the goonda party. Now, what is happening under Yogi ji? Will he act?” Akhilesh asked. Perturbed over the sudden spurt in such incidents, the CM decided to set up a special monitoring cell in his office. “A special cell will be constituted in the CM’s office for crime-monitoring, which will be done personally by the CM,” cabinet minister Shrikant Sharma said.
Refuting SP’s criticism over the law and order, he said, “Those SP leaders, who have carried criminals and rapists with them in their cars, should introspect.” Ever since Adityanath took over the reins of the state, the bureaucracy is constantly on its toes. It is an unusual sight to see that the parking lots at the secretariat here get full even before the clock strikes 9:25am in the morning.
Adityanath has proved himself to be a tough taskmaster, holding back-to-back meetings with ministers and bureaucrats well past midnight, only to return to office before 9.30am the next morning. For almost a month, some 80-odd presentations were made by as many departments before the CM. The state government has so far announced half a dozen significant measures, starting with the Rs36,500-crore loan-waiver and power-for-all agreement, said principal secretary (information) Avaneesh Awasthi.
At the BJP working committee meeting, Adityanath praised cane development minister Suresh Rana for his efforts to clear Rs5,558 crore of dues of sugarcane farmers within 40 days. A panel of group of ministers constituted by the CM has submitted a report on a new mining policy and on clamping down on illegal mining, which is a major problem in UP. A portal being launched under the CMO’s supervision to allow people to file complain on illegal land-grab could be a game-changer, too. The power-for-all agreement between the Yogi government and the centre promises electricity around the clock to district headquarters and 18-hour a day to all villages.
Another key decision was making transfers and postings of bureaucrats “merit-based” and free from extraneous pressures as reflected in wide-scale transfers done by the government. “In the erstwhile government, transfers had become an industry. Now, honest and talented officers are getting respectable posts,” a BJP leader said.