There seems to be no limit to how much one can despair about Uttar Pradesh these days. Communal tensions, rapes, breakdown of law and order are what we hear far more of than efforts to tackle its serious governance deficits. The state’s political leaders and authorities have consistently let down UP’s population — which at an estimated 204 million is more than Brazil’s and greater than South Africa, South Korea, Spain and Kenya combined.
The recent controversy about the so-called ‘love jihad’, which alleges that Muslim men lure Hindu women in a concerted fashion is another sign of the deplorable rhetoric that marks UP’s politics. BJP state leaders have been talking about this alleged phenomenon and while the party did not explicitly use the phrase in its political resolution at the state executive meeting on Sunday, it did say that “the rape of women of a particular community and involvement of people from another particular community... is either a coincidence or done in a planned manner”. The ruling party really has to rise above such rhetoric to avoid worsening communal tensions that have become pronounced over the last couple of years. Such allegations further vitiate the atmosphere and have been shown to have no basis in fact.
Meanwhile, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has showcased little by way of his government’s achievements and is more focused on trading barbs with the BJP. He needlessly picked on the BJP’s Mathura MP Hema Malini for acting in a movie long ago that featured an inter-religious relationship. Mr Yadav would do well to focus on recovering the reputation of his government that has been seriously dented in recent months. Millions of TV viewers recently saw a woman in Meerut beat up goons in an effort to save her husband, while the public and a policeman looked on. The UP Police is allegedly not taking action against all the accused owing to their proximity to a political leader. Mr Yadav must come to terms with what such high profile incidents do for confidence in his government — and the state’s political class needs to desperately restore civility in its discourse.