Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah flagged off the party’s Uttar Pradesh election campaign in Saharanpur on Saturday, with the launch of a rally dubbed as the parivartan yatra. The rally, launched within days of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's rathyatra, will travel through all the legislative constituencies of the state and culminate on 24 December at Ambedkar Nagar.
In what can only be termed as an attacking inaugural speech, Shah levelled serious allegations against the opposition – in the incumbent Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress. While sharing the dais with Union Minister Sanjeev Baliyan, BJP state unit president Keshav Maurya, Haryana Chief Minister Manoharlal Khattar and others, he accused the Akhilesh-led SP government of employing ‘gundaraj’ (the rule of criminals).
Either Shah is highly ill-informed, which one does not expect from a president of the ruling party, or he wants to fool the UP voters in general and the audience listening to him in particular.
He started by calling Azam Khan, a senior cabinet minister in the SP government, a criminal. A somewhat ironic accusation, considering that Khan has no major criminal cases against him, while Shah faces serious charges of murder and kidnapping. State president Maurya also faces murder charges, while Baliyan stands accused in several cases related to the Muzaffarnagar riots.
Shah then recalled this year's incidence of the Mathura violence, which resulted in the loss of lives of two policemen and several others, calling it a big failure of the UP government. He went on to say that one should take inspiration from the BJP ruled states in how to deal with such situations. Irony must have died a thousand times, for Khattar was present on the same dais, under whose vigil Haryana saw the worst episode of violence since the partition, in the wake of the Jat quota agitation.
But Shah did not stop there. He went on to further claim that UP had seen a surge in the crime rate in the last fifteen years, since BJP was ousted from power. If one compares his claim with the data compiled and published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), it is clear that there is not a single shred of truth in what he said.
The last time that BJP was in power was in 2001, when Rajnath Singh, the present home minister, was the chief minister. According to the NCRB, in 2001, the rate of violent crimes (murder, rape, dacoity etc) was 23 (per 100,000) compared to that in 2015 where it stands at 18.8.
If we consider the government in between, when BSP's Mayawati was in power, the crime rate was even lower, at 13.5 in 2010 and 16.5 in 2011.
Shah specifically singled out Kalyan Singh’s tenure as chief minister, calling it a crime free period for the state. Under his two years of ‘crime-free’ rule, the rate of violent crimes stood at 26.17 and 22.7 in 1998 and 1999 respectively. The NCRB data paints a completely different picture from the one the BJP president wants the people to see.
Nonetheless, he claimed that only a BJP government was capable of controlling crime in the state and that BJP ruled states are far ahead in controlling the law and order situation.
One might have believed him, but the NCRB data does not lie. According to the NCRB, for the year 2015, the rate of violent crimes in UP is 18.18, which is far better than the BJP ruled states like Maharashtra(31.3) , Haryana (37.5), Madhya Pradesh (28.7), Goa (21.8), Rajasthan (21.6), Chattisgarh (27.7) and Jharkhand (25.5).
The picture for BJP would look even more dismal if we take into account Jammu and Kashmir (28), where BJP is in a coalition with the Peoples Democratic Party. With only Gujarat faring better than UP in terms of the crime rate, the BJP ruled states do not present a favourable picture.
The Bulandshahr rape case was further used to attack Akhilesh's government. Shah then focussed on the issue of women’s safety, again lauding the BJP ruled states. Once again, his allegations were baseless and contrary to the facts.
NCRB data reveals that, for the year 2015, the rate of rape in UP is 3 (per 100,000). In BJP ruled states, during the same period, the rate of rape is reported to be much higher – with Madhya Pradesh at 11.9, Rajasthan at 10.5, Haryana at 8.6, Maharashtra at 7.3, Jharkhand at 6.5, Goa at 9.4 and Chattisgarh at a staggering 12.2. Gujarat is again the only exception, with a lesser rate of rape than UP, at 1.7.
Amit Shah should stop accusing his opponents based on false charges and should not mislead the electorate of this country so blatantly.
(Author is a research scholar of Modern History at JNU, New Delhi)