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Gorakhpur tragedy: A reminder to BJP that electoral success isn't an end unto itself; good governance is key

Rubbishing Nehruvian Secularism and establishing a system based on equality and justice rather than appeasement politics is a fine goal, if that's what the BJP wants. Going by the Modi wave that sweeps state after state like a mighty vacuum cleaner, that's what most Indians also seem to want, especially if such laudable goals come with a promise of better lives.

But nobody, not even the most ardent of Modi's supporters, want basic governance to be pushed under a saffron carpet for the time being, while the BJP goes about winning election after election to establish whatever it wants to establish in the future.

The future is distant; the present is now.

The horrendous deaths of 72 children in a Gorakhpur hospital due to what can only be sheer official negligence and criminal apathy make people wonder if election-winning is an end unto itself for the BJP.

Encephalitis hits the state of Uttar Pradesh year after year. PTI

Encephalitis hits the state of Uttar Pradesh year after year. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, who are supposedly working wonderfully in tandem to ensure a better India, must take note that many of the 18 BJP chief ministers in the country, including their darling Yogi Adityanath, are unable to live up to the expectations of those who voted for them.

If people continue to hear nothing but the Hinduvta shibboleth being mouthed on a daily basis, and if they see no visible action on the ground to improve their lives, don't blame them if they see Marie Antoinette's infamous quip "If they don't have food, let them eat cake" as "If they don't have oxygen, let them breathe Hindutva".

If BJP wants to bring about fundamental changes to India's political, economic and social architecture, it's just Modi, Shah and the like in the establishment's higher echelons who must busy themselves with policy-making objectives in all their nuances. The rest of the party, including an impressive array of chief ministers, must also step down from the crest of the Modi wave, and get down to the daily, more mundane administrative chores — ranging from filling potholes on roads to ensuring that children don't die in hospitals for want of oxygen.

Right from Modi down to the party worker at the lowest stratum, not everybody can tie themselves up in knots with troubles of how repulsive the Constitution's Article 370 is, or how dangers that pseudo-secularism and the absence of a uniform civil code pose to the nation, or how very nice it would be to have a Congress-mukt Bharat. The party's chief ministers must leave such highfalutin and lofty issues to their central leaders and mind their own jobs: Of governing states.

The fact that the central leadership had to intervene in crisis after crisis in BJP-ruled states does not speak well of either the Modi-Shah duet or of their chief ministers. We first had the Gujarat leadership's utter failure in controlling the Patidar agitation. Then there was the fiasco over the farmers' agitation in Madhya Pradesh. And now the pathetic failure of the Adityanath administration in Uttar Pradesh in preventing the children's deaths.

All these raise the inevitable suspicion that the party's central leadership is too hung up about winning elections to watch how its own chief ministers are working or not working, until a full-blown crisis erupts.

Among all the failures of BJP chief ministers, the Adityanath government's inhuman negligence in the Gorakhpur hospital stands out as by far the worst and most indefensible. That the tragedy was taking shape just when the chief minister was on a visit to the hospital on 9 August, and that neither he nor the bureaucrats who accompanied him sensed it makes citizens across India angry.

The BJP in general and Adityanath in particular must know that nothing in the world melts the hearts of men and women like a tragedy that strikes children. No amount of administrative post-mortem and expression of regret (at its best), nor buck-passing (at its worst) can douse the country-wide anger over the Gorakhpur tragedy.

What makes it even more repugnant is that Adityanath, a five-term MP from Gorakhpur, repeatedly made the encephalitis deaths of children in his constituency an issue to fight the erstwhile Mayawati government with in the past. Except when he had a chance to do something, to prevent the tragedy before the seasonal epidemic hit the state this year, he did nothing.

Encephalitis, which blights the state year after year, should have figured at the top of Adityanath's to-do list when he took over as chief minister. He should have set up a health squad instead of letting lose anti-Romeo squads on the state's parks and thoroughfares to book suspected lovers or trying to control unlicensed meat shops on a war-footing.

The result of this failure is that Adityanath must now suffer the shame of having Mayawati, the same former chief minister he once accused of negligence, point an accusatory finger at him. "This is an example of gross criminal negligence of the BJP government," she said.

Adityanath has lost the moral right to ask Mayawati a question which he could have otherwise asked: "Was she so busy with her 'social engineering' to worry about children dying of encephalitis when she was the CM?"

There is no end to the accused turning into the accuser in the burlesque of democracy, where the defendant and the guilty often switch sides after elections.

Look at the gumption of the BSP:

But can Modi or Shah or Adityanath now point out that the BSP is perhaps the most mercenary of all mercenary parties, and perhaps the worst victim of last year's demonetisation? They can't.

Look at the audacity of the CPM

Can Modi or Shah or Adityanath  question Yechury about the utter disregard of human life that the CPM subjected the people of West Bengal to during the 34 years of its rule? They can't.

Or look at the nerve of the Congress:

Can Modi or Shah or Adityanath ask how many Congress chief ministers have resigned in the wake of human tragedies during the 70 years since Independence? They can't.

Updated Date: Aug 14, 2017 06:17 AM

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