Sonshine in U.P.


It is a sign of the times that Akhilesh Yadav sailed into the Chief Minister's chair in Uttar Pradesh even as the Congress struggled to find a suitable candidate to fill the top post in neighbouring Uttarakhand. To be sure, Yadav junior fairly walked into the job, having beaten the odds to win a super-hero sized victory for the party. The Samajwadi Party's haul is the largest since 1985, when the Congress piled up the numbers on the back of a humongous Rajiv wave. The old guard in the SP, which was admittedly more comfortable with patriarch Mulayam Singh, had no option but to yield in the face of the cadre's emotional response to the younger Yadav, who was seen to have earned the promotion by dint of hard work rather than as a familial bequest. At 38, Mr. Yadav will be U.P's youngest Chief Minister, and fittingly so, given the demographic profile of India and its most-watched political State. The positive note Mr. Yadav struck on the campaign enabled him to connect with a generation that had clearly tired of the U.P. “badland” stereotype and whose aspirations he seemed to understand; in a poll arena crowded with pompous and hate-spewing contestants, the young SP leader was noticeable for eschewing personal attacks and outlining a forward-looking vision.

But here comes the hard part. The sheer size of the State — with a population of over 200 million spread over 2.5 lakh square kilometres, U.P could be a nation in itself — can daunt the toughest administrator, and Mr. Yadav's job is rendered that much more difficult by his youth and inexperience. It is no help that the SP has a reputation that precedes it. Though a key point of the SP's campaign was that it would not tolerate lawlessness from the ranks, the aftermath of the party's triumph appeared to confirm the worst fears about it. Indeed, what should have been a moment to savour for the Chief Minister-designate was marred by reports of large-scale violence by partymen showing off their muscle for all to see. The rampaging mobs killed a young boy, roughed up journalists and set upon Dalits. In the event, Mr. Yadav's promise to prioritise restoration of law and order will be watched keenly by observers aware of Mayawati's sterling record in this respect. There are other challenges before Mr. Yadav: Farmers are in distress, much of rural U.P. continues be haunted by power outages and corruption has made nonsense of the delivery of government services. There is also no writing off the Bahujan Samaj Party: With a 26 per cent vote share, the elephant is surely waiting for the cycle to trip up.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 5:35:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/sonshine-in-up/article2985188.ece

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