Akhilesh Yadav vs Narendra Modi: What the PM can do, the UP CM can do better
Beat them at their own game – that appears to be Akhilsh Yadav’s newly-minted strategy against the PM Modi.
Beat them at their own game – that appears to be Akhilsh Yadav’s newly-minted strategy against the BJP. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh no more attacks BJP’s mascot Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue of communalism, he is out to outdo Modi in self-projection as the development man.
Taking a cue from Modi’s consistent portrayal of himself as a pro-development leader, Akhilesh has organized his bureaucratic machinery in such a manner that whatever Modi says or does, Akhilesh comes up with one better in Uttar Pradesh.
The latest is Modi’s surprise nomination of Akhilesh Yadav among nine individuals to take forward the Swachchh Bharat (Clean India) campaign. Modi made this announcement on the second day of his recent visit to Varanasi after taking up a spade to remove silt from the banks of the Ganga. Later the same day, while a smiling Akhilesh avoided any comment on his nomination, he came up with a statement that his government was already running a campaign to make UP “clean and green".
Another example of this game of one-upmanship is the alacrity with which the Akhilesh government is taking up the branding of all his schemes on the lines of Modi’s branding exercise of central schemes. If Modi government launched a mega exercise of to ensure branding of schemes like ‘Make in India’ or ‘Swachchh Bharat’ through media advertisements and social media, in UP, too, a similar exercise was launched through newspaper and outdoor advertising and social media campaigns for schemes announced recently. Not only this, the state government also engaged the services of a private company to impart training on the use of social media platforms to legislators and even SP leaders.
The prime minister had urged all MPs last October to adopt one village in their constituency to develop it as a model village. The UP chief minister asked not only ministers and legislators but officers to do the same. It is learnt that the state’s education minister has asked department officials to adopt schools to monitor their development.
The ambitious pension scheme of the central government was launched recently and Union Home Minister launched it in Lucknow. A few days later, the UP chief minister launched a mega publicity campaign to launch the Samajwadi Pension Scheme and also announced a related portal to monitor it and ensure transparency in its implementation.
The ongoing campaign to clean the Ganga and develop its banks on the lines of the Sabarmati river front scheme has earned much publicity. Recently, the state government launched a massive scheme to develop the Gomti riverfront in Lucknow. The river traverses through Lucknow and already several departments are engaged in cleaning up its banks, develop road and recreational facilities along the river and services of some foreign companies are reportedly being sought for this purpose.
Not only this, right after Modi visited Japan and signed several bilateral agreements, the state government inked a twin-city pact with Santiago in Chile for Varanasi, and also sent a delegation to Japan. The chief minister himself visited Netherlands last month and later a high-level Dutch government and business delegation arrived in Lucknow. Now, Dutch knowhow is being sought to develop Amsterdam-style cycle tracks in Lucknow and some other cities, and Dutch companies are being approached to improve potato farming in the state.
It appears a conscious strategy on part of the ruling party in uttar Pradesh that while party president Mulayam Singh Yadav and senior minister Mohammad Azam Khan have been using vitriolic language to criticize Modi, Akhilesh Yadav has resorted to restraint and a moderated taunt to take on the prime minister. While Azam Khan recently said that being unmarried and having no children Modi was not “one of us” and could not understand “our problems.” On the other hand, Akhilesh has been throwing a challenge to the prime minister to match the state’s pace in launching and executing development projects.
Even Mulayam said in a programme at the Lucknow Press Club on Monday that Modi was a “coward” for not taking on China and Pakistan, Akhilesh has preferred to stay away from making personal comments against the prime minister.
“The ruling party leaders have probably realized that the polarization card cannot be played beyond a point and ultimately people of the state now look forward for concrete action. They will not even spare Modi government if it fails to show results on election promises within the next few months. In the event, only solid action on the ground will impress them,” says retired professor R. Roy Choudhury of the Lucknow University.
Athar Husain, director of the Centre for Objective Research and Development (CORD) goes one step by saying that during the entire clean India campaign, Modi did not nominate any state chief minister or minister to join it, preferring to name industrialists, entertainers, sportspersons. “Akhilesh Yadav is the only non-BJP chief minister who has been selected by Modi to take the movement forward,” Athar Husain says.
This, according to him, shows a “grudging acknowledgement on Modi’s part of Akhilesh Yadav’s stature as a young leader of a vast state.” The state BJP spokesman Vijay Pathak, however, says that a healthy competition between the state and the Centre to develop Uttar Pradesh is always welcome. “At least the prime minister’s development agenda is catching up in the state,” he says.
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