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UP Election 2017: Akhilesh Yadav's fascination with virtual over real may be his undoing

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav seems to be living in a virtual world. If one goes by breast-beating visuals of his supporters on TV channels and unqualified adulation he got from a section of the media over his attempt to come out of his father’s "sinister shadow", Akhilesh’s victory looks like a foregone conclusion.

Needless to say the alchemy of politics is being oversimplified in the country’s most populous state and runs the risk of ruining Akhilesh more than making him a man with the Midas touch. Look around Akhilesh and you will find leaders like Naresh Agarwal, Kiranmoy Nanda and his so-called mentor and uncle Ram Gopal Yadav. Most of these leaders are not only rootless but also known as hangers-on.

Nobody knows better than Mulayam Singh Yadav that in the past five years, Akhilesh’s track record in governance was awful. Except for the Lucknow beautification project, a Metro project and the Lucknow-Agra highway, there is hardly anything that Akhilesh can showcase in the elections as his achievements.

File image of Akhilesh Yadav. AP

File image of Akhilesh Yadav. AP

On the other hand, his follies are many. Let us take then one-by-one. In terms of the law-and-order situation, Akhilesh proved to be as ineffective in almost all the big cities as the smaller cities of western Uttar Pradesh; he let gangsters rule the roost while the state apparently receded and became almost dysfunctional. For the first time, Uttar Pradesh witnessed the emergence of gangsters — particularly those belonging to Yadav castes — and their domination across the state. Akhilesh facilitated this trend by posting pliable IPS officers as district police chiefs. Yadav police officers and constables were handpicked and posted at crucial places in police stations, but not without the chief minister’s complicity.

Similarly, the recruitment of officers of the provincial civil services (PCS) was scandalised as a large number of those selected belonged to Yadav caste. In police constable recruitment, a majority of those recruited came from Etah, Etawah, Mainpur and belonged to Yadav caste. Contrast this recruitment with the most transparent and fair recruitment of police constables during Mayawati’s tenure, and one will know the difference. The recruitment during Mayawati’s tenure is cited as a case study all over the country.

The state witnessed its worst communal situations as a series of riots rocked the state. Never since the peak of the Ayodhya agitation had the level of communal acrimony and distrust been as discernible as it is now. What appears to be mystery is the fact that some of those blamed for the riots enjoyed a very good rapport with the chief minister. A senior police officer handling the riots once told me that there was specific instruction from the chief minister not to arrest some BJP leaders who were accused of stoking the violence.

His claim for governance sounds hollow if one looks at the fact that Uttar Pradesh witnessed starvation death for the first time since Independence. In the Bundelkhand region, the famished faces of adults and children were captured by photographers who travelled through the area. In none of these cases that exemplified Akhilesh’s record as the worst chief minister Uttar Pradesh ever had did he ever showed regret or his willingness to mend his ways.

In these five years, Akhilesh has however turned shifting blame onto others into a fine art. He assumed himself to be coated by political Teflon that would keep him unblemished. Officials who worked with him admit that the chief minister’s span of attention was so low that it became difficult to interact with him on serious issues. For all the ills in the governance, he either blamed officials or members of his family, including the father and his coterie.

And there are all indications that Akhilesh is quite convinced by his image-managers that he enjoys a clean and pro-development image. He genuinely believes that his image will transcend the traditional barrier of OBC consolidation and attract upper castes. If the spectacles in Lucknow are to be taken seriously, Akhilesh has already been declared a winner in the media’s perception. He is projected as a good man besieged by crooked and criminal relatives, including his father.

But perception is not reality.

Attuned to reading his political obituaries, a frail and old Mualayam, though a pale shadow of his past, still retains a considerable clout among his support base. In people’s perception, he is seen as a leader who openly patronised criminals and gangsters. But that was hardly a disability among his voters. In 2012, when Akhilesh won the election, he rode on the wave of a social support base whose substantial constituent rendered unqualified support to his father "Netaji". But that was the story of the real world. For the 2017 Assembly elections, Akhilesh is more fascinated by the virtual than real world.

Updated Date: Jan 03, 2017 08:43 AM

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