Comparisons are often odious. Yet there is an uncanny similarity between the rise of Akhilesh Yadav and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu. Naidu upstaged his father-in-law NT Rama Rao to grab the leadership of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) much in the same way as Akhilesh has been trying to topple his aging father.
Naidu succeeded and got elected with thumping majority after the death of NTR in 1999. Just before his election, he won accolades from the economists for his reformist zeal and his promise to turn Andhra into an "Asian Tiger". And it was not without reason that he earned the epithet of a "cyber CM" for his felicity with computers and power-point presentations.
In the politics of those times, Naidu was indeed regarded as an "outlier" who crafted a new grammar of development and technology to weave his discourse. His idioms were quite alien to old practitioners and hence caused considerable consternation. Immediately after the elections, AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa was so wowed by the transformation of Hyderabad that while driving along Hussain Sagar lake, she is reported to have commented, "Are we in Hyderabad or USA?"
In the 2004 elections, Naidu looked invincible. He was convinced by the echo-chamber around him that his zeal for modernisation is enough to sail him through. And he made the cardinal mistake of promoting his vision at the expense of the rural areas. Naidu was trounced roundly, only to come back a decade later as a pale shadow of his former self and won the chief ministership of a truncated Andhra Pradesh. Harsh realities prompt you to learn lessons better than tutoring and mentoring. Naidu no longer speaks the language of the 90s and is a much-mellowed person now.
There is nothing wrong if Akhilesh emulates Naidu and pursues an agenda distinctly different from the usual politics of the country’s most populous state. But that does not appear to be the case. Unlike Andhra Pradesh that attracted investment and promoted technology in a big way during Naidu’s first stint as the chief minister, Akhilesh has done hardly anything to push Uttar Pradesh on the development map. Forget about being compared to an "Asian tiger", the state has been gradually falling far behind neigbouring Bihar in development indices.
Looking at the crumbling health infrastructure across the state, it would be easy to understand the state of affairs. In the health sector, the mysterious epidemic that kills hundreds of children in eastern Uttar Pradesh visits every year without fail. And in the entire eastern Uttar Pradesh, there is no hospital, except Sir Sunderlal Hospital of the Banaras Hindu University, that is adequately equipped to treat serious ailments. Only a fortnight ago, Union Communication Minister Manoj Sinha met with a road accident in Gorakhpur and was airlifted by an Indian Air Force plane to get proper treatment. Obviously, facilities in the region fall far short of the adequate requirement.
Similarly, in terms of road connectivity and power situation, Akhilesh's performance is dismal. In rural areas, connectivity is getting worse. Even the national highways project is stalled in eastern Uttar Pradesh for purely political reasons. While the power situation in neighbouring Bihar has improved, Uttar Pradesh has been lagging far behind. In KAVAL towns (Kanpur Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad, and Lucknow), uninterrupted power supply is still a dream. In other towns, the situation is worse.
In western Uttar Pradesh which is developed as a hub of the sugar industry, there are indications that the industry is passing through a serious crisis on account of extortion, not only by local warlords owing allegiance to the ruling party but also by a set of bureaucrats close to the regime. That corruption is an accepted practice of public life became evident by the manner in which the Akhilesh regime protected the chief engineer of Noida, Yadav Singh. It was only after an Income Tax raid and intervention by the Allahabad High Court that Yadav Singh’s case was getting probed by the CBI.
By no stretch of the imagination, Akhilesh is doing what Naidu did for Andhra Pradesh in the 90s. But he seemed to be afflicted by the hubris that Naidu displayed in 2004. Naidu not only believed in his invincibility but also convinced the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee about Andhra Pradesh being his impregnable fortress. When the results came, the facile nature of the reverberations in urban echo-chambers got thoroughly exposed. Nobody knows it better than Mulayam Singh Yadav. At the twilight of his life, Mulayam knows for sure that his political capital is bound to get frittered away sooner than later should Akhilesh not mend his ways.
Updated Date: Jan 03, 2017 17:14 PM