UP Election 2017: Akhilesh Yadav must act swift on Gayatri Prajapati case, reaffirm his clean image

Beyond the campaign blitzkrieg that has overpowered Uttar Pradesh, and arguments tearing through television sets in living rooms, something seems to be brewing against the Samajwadi Party in the Hindi-majority state especially with the polls neariAng the seventh and final phase on 8 March.

Akhilesh Yadav no doubt did a wonderful job of retaining the control of the party and pushing the old-timers including his father Mulayam Singh Yadav out of SP—his campaigns have also been focused on one thing and that is development—unlike the leaders in the Bharatiya Janata Party, several of whom, occasionally highlighted religion and the Ram Temple issue in order to increase their chances.

Akhilesh Yadav. AP

Akhilesh Yadav. AP

In fact, till a few weeks ago, it seemed all was going well for the SP and its alliance partner Indian National Congress. But if media reports are to be believed, the Samajwadi Party has more reasons to worry than it did at the beginning of campaigning in the state. And the one person at the centre of this turn of the tide is Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, a cabinet minister in Yadav government.

Prajapati has been absconding in related to a rape case with his Passport being frozen and a red alert given to all airports.

In Uttar Pradesh, with a history of allegedly shocking rape incidents like the Bulandshahr gangrape and Badaun gangrape, having a rape-accused minister in the cabinet doesn't serve well for Akhilesh Yadav's current government or the poll campaigning. And with the demand to sack Prajapati from the cabinet and for his arrest growing stronger, Prajapati's actions have given the rival parties the very ammo that could tear through the "goodwill" that Akhilesh Yadav has created for his party and himself.

We are not going to get into details as to how Prajapati, a BPL card holder in 2012 managed to accrue assets over Rs 1 crore or but the fact that he attained the cabinet minister rank in Akhilesh Yadav government and also contest the ongoing Assembly election in Amethi despite having five cases of corruption against him (three of which have been withdrawn) is baffling. And that too in the Samajwadi Party, which went through a month-long drama to cleanse itself of "corrupt" elements and "ruffians". Prajapati's conduct and his presence in his cabinet don't speak highly of the party or its president Akhilesh Yadav.

One of the top arguments that Akhilesh Yadav and his supporters presented during the Samajwadi Party family feud was that UP chief minister wanted to clean the party of the ruffians. Either the "SP-family feud" was just a drama for the cameras and his supporters to generate sympathy towards the UP chief minister, or the "corrupt" elements in the party have more control of the party than Akhilesh Yadav could have thought.

It's interesting that Akhilesh Yadav has not been asked questions about Prajapati in the numerous interviews that he has given lately, but he must understand that nothing is more outraging to the public and the media than a government with a rape-accused in its cabinet.

Akhilesh Yadav has much to answer when it comes to Prajapati, whether it was retaining him in the party despite cases of corruption or offering him a ticket to contest the election despite him being accused of rape.

Gayatri Prajapati. Image courtesy: CNN-News18

Gayatri Prajapati. Image courtesy: CNN-News18

The UP chief minister could also do well to take a few lessons from its alliance partner Congress, which lost Delhi to a young party like Aam Aadmi Party after it failed to generate confidence among the people after the Delhi bus gangrape incident in 2012. Then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit's remarks on the gangrape didn't do well for the party either, as it lost the election not once but twice.

The BJP's state chief Keshav Prasad Maurya recently claimed that the party will win 303 seats on 11 March. We are not sure how Maurya arrived at the number, but the timing of Prajapati rape case is impeccable, and it would be safe to say that Prajapati has given Maurya at least one right reason to say so. Akhilesh Yadav could also drive inspiration from what transpired in the US in November. The FBI leaks on Hillary Clinton's hacked emails weighed over the sexist remarks of Donald Trump in the US Presidential Election. Akhilesh Yadav's failure to act swift could become the Achilles Heel in his ambitions to be UP's chief minister for a second term.

So far Akhilesh Yadav has not said much except asserting that the law must take its due course. But that is not enough, especially since the behaviour of the UP police in the matter had anything but a positive effect on his government. And by retaining Prajapati in the cabinet, Akhilesh Yadav is only giving more ammo to the BJP, and reasons to the public to doubt his clean image.

But all is not lost for the Akhilesh Yadav as he can still turn this bad situation into a good one. The Prajapati rape case may be an apt time for Akhilesh Yadav to show the public that he is different from what the BJP has been saying about him. If Prajapati is innocent has some of his supporters have been claiming, he should have nothing to fear. As for Prajapati, he must put his party over himself and surrender immediately.

With saffron flags gaining ground in Uttar Pradesh, the last thing Akhilesh Yadav need is the educated liberal youth turning away from him and the party — all for Gayatri Prajapati, a minister with a tainted history.

Updated Date: Mar 05, 2017 23:25 PM

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