Its electoral importance is so overwhelming that people often fail to look beyond the number of MPs it can send to Parliament. We thought that this would change with a young chief minister coming to power in Uttar Pradesh.
But those who said that the old order would change giving way to the new really read the tea leaves all wrong. The Akhilesh Yadav government seems to be vying to outdo previous governments, including his father’s, in giving the state a raw deal.
The fact that an IAS officer, Durga Shakti Nagpal, who seemed to be doing no more than her job has been penalised so severely with hints that she is communal suggest that there is more than a bit of dirty work at the crossroads. To make matters worse, while the chief minister is trying to show that the decision to punish the officer for allegedly stirring up communal passions by demolishing the wall of a mosque was a professional one, his own partymen have been crowing about how they have made her pay — she took on the powerful sand mafia — and that she had no business trying to usurp political power.
This incident, as many before it, makes one thing crystal clear. Akhilesh Yadav is not really in control of his state. It is still run by his father and those loyal to Yadav senior. Now wisdom imparted from experienced people could have stood the young chief minister in good stead. But, what is being foisted on him is a system in which lawlessness prevails.
There have been a number of attacks on women, various mafias are flourishing and Akhilesh has not been able to weed out the corrupt from his own cabinet. He started off on a shaky wicket and he is on a shakier one now.
Those who thought he would come into his own have now abandoned all such hopes. The unfortunate thing is that Uttar Pradesh has been for decades in the grip of a pernicious political culture and the man or woman at the top has made little difference to the quality of life of the state’s largely impoverished people.
While other states have jumped onto the development wagon, some may argue more in name than anything else, in UP there is not even a pretence of going beyond caste and class politics. Honest officials and police personnel are given short shrift. And Akhilesh has not come up with even a semblance of a blueprint for progress and growth in the state.
The Durga episode shows that now there is no fig leaf to cover political high-handedness. While other states are notching up numbers in development indices and economic growth, UP remains content with just the number of MPs it can elect by sheer dint of its size.