Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath completed one month in office on Wednesday. The firebrand Hindutva leader's meteoric rise to the top job in India's biggest state surprised many as Union minister Manoj Sinha was the frontrunner for the job.
Adityanath, known for his controversial remarks in the past, is considered a divisive figure in Indian politics and his appointment raised questions about BJP's commitment to development (vikaas). Some of his decisions in the first week after his ascension created a flutter in the media as well as within the Opposition. The media had also reported that he took almost 50 decisions in the first week of his office.
After assuming office, Adityanath has adopted a tough position on corruption. Immediately, after being sworn in as chief minister, he had asked his ministers to reveal all information about their assets and properties within 15 days. Additionally, he asked his ministers to follow the routine every year before 31 March, while urging them to stay away from contractors and decline any costly gifts.
The head priest of the Gorakhnath temple also advised his ministers to avoid "VIP culture" and shun red beacons on the top of their vehicles. It is interesting to note that Adityanath conducted his first cabinet meeting only a fortnight after coming to power. In that meeting, he announced a Rs 35,000 crore loan waiver for farmers, partially fulfiling a campaign promise of the BJP.
Following have been some of his highlights of his first month in office:
Ban on slaughterhouses and cow smuggling
In keeping with the BJP's manifesto, Adityanath on 22 March had directed police officials to prepare an action plan for closure of slaughterhouses across the state.
He also ordered a blanket ban on smuggling of cows and had said that zero tolerance would be exercised in this regard.
The action against shops selling meat and slaughter houses had led to a huge scarcity of meat in the state, leading to protests at many places.
The situation came to such a pass that the world famous Tunde Kebab shop in old Lucknow was forced to down shutters, a first in more than 100 years, for lack of buffalo meat.
The state meat traders association then went on a strike to protest against the crackdown on even legal slaughterhouses.
Rattled at the growing protests in the state against the action, BJP leaders in New Delhi conveyed to the state government to "soften its stand" and "clarify the position" after which a meeting between Yogi Adityanath and the traders association was arranged.
Sirajuddin Qureshi, one of the delegates who met Adityanath, called the meeting "positive" and announced the withdrawal of their strike.
Following the crackdown in Uttar Pradesh, several BJP-ruled states too banned illegal slaughterhouses.
After coming to power, Adityanath had directed the state's top officials to chalk out clear guidelines for the Anti-Romeo Squad, so that there is no "unnecessary harassment" of boys and girls.
The state government had asked the Uttar Pradesh police to constitute an "Anti-Romeo Squads" in 11 districts of Lucknow to prevent sexual harassment cases.
He had also asked for effective steps in cases of acid attacks.
However, it has been dubbed as an attempt at moral policing and widely criticised in some quarters as the modus operandi was being compared with the infamous 'Operation Majnu' in 2005, in which boys at crossings and markets were pulled up, and couples in gardens were thrashed by police.
According to the Uttar Pradesh Police, the only job (of the Anti-Romeo Squads) was to ensure safety of women and that eve-teasing does not take place.
"For this we will also take preventive steps like not permitting miscreants to loiter in public areas frequented by women. I will not say it is moral policing," a police officer was quoted as saying.
The state government defended the Anti-Romeo Squads. Addressing the media after the first cabinet meeting of the government, Power Minister Srikant Sharma had said, "Anti-Romeo Squads are doing a good job and are being hailed by the people of the entire state."
Farmer loans waiver
In keeping with its poll promises, the Uttar Pradesh government on 4 April, announced its much touted farm loan waiver, estimated to benefit over 2.15 lakh small and marginal farmers in the state.
The announcement was made after the first cabinet meeting of the new Uttar Pradesh government, held at Shastri Bhawan in Lucknow.
Addressing the press after the meeting, Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh made the announcement.
He said that the cabinet had unanimously decided to waive off farm loans up to Rs one lakh for small and marginal farmers.
The minister had also mentioned that of the 2.30 lakh farmers in the state, roughly 92.5 percent farmers will fit the bill for the announced benefits. Moreover, the government also decided a complete waiver of farm loans that had turned into Non performing Assets (NPA).
This, he said would benefit more than seven lakh farmers and would cost the exchequer an additional Rs 5,630 crore. The loan waivers will cause an additional 36,359 crore burden on the state coffers.
Eighteen hours of power to all districts
Another election promise of the BJP was providing uninterrupted electricity across the state.
As a precursor to the larger plan to electrify the state, the state government provided 24-hour electricity to Shaktipeeths across Uttar Pradesh during the navaratri festival.
Lat Tuesday, the cabinet ordered 18-hour power supply in villages and 20-hour at tehsil level and in Bundelkhand region.
The chief minister directed the power department to ensure that defective or burnt transformers should be replaced expeditously in rural areas so that agricultural operations do not suffer, Power minister Shrikant Sharma had said.
The government also signed the ambitious 'Power for All' pact on Friday to meet the Centre's target of making the state energy efficient by 2018.
Comparing triple talaq to disrobing of Draupadi
Adityanath took a very supportive view on the sensitive issue of triple talaq.
On Monday, Adityanath said that politicians who were maintaining silence on the issue of were equally responsible as those practising it and linked the Muslim practice of divorce to the disrobing of Draupadi in the Mahabharata.
"These days there is a new debate in the country. Some people are maintaining a silence on this issue. This reminds me of the scene in the Mahabharata in which Draupadi is being disrobed in an assembly and she asks a question to the gathering as to who is responsible for this? No one was able to utter even a single word. At that time Vidur said people who have committed the crime, those who are the accomplices and those who maintained silence on this issue are equally responsible," Adityanath had said, referring to the practice of 'triple talaq'.
His remarks came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch against the divisive issue of 'triple talaq', insisting that the exploitation of Muslim women should end and justice be done to them.
Not only Adityanath, the minister for Minority Affairs Mohsin Raza also lashed out at the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Tuesday for opposing a ban on triple talaq.
The minister dubbed AIMPLB the 'All India Maulvi Personal Law Board' and said that organisations which do not work for the public good should be banned as they are against the Constitution of India.
Notably, unaffected by media outrage over the ban on illegal slaughterhouses and the creation of "anti-Romeo" squads, residents of Uttar Pradesh say those were the most popular of the decisions taken by chief minister in his first month in power, according to a statewide survey.
Adityanath also came up with high approval ratings, with 62 percent citizens supporting the decisions he has taken so far, in the survey carried out by Gaon Connection, India's biggest rural media platform. More than 71 percent respondents said he was working in the right direction.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: Apr 19, 2017 10:32 am | Updated Date: Apr 19, 2017 10:32 am