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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Umbha, Unnao give Opposition in Uttar Pradesh its voice back | Analysis

For over two months after the Lok Sabha poll result came out on May 23, the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party looked demoralised and withdrawn.

analysis Updated: Aug 22, 2019 22:44 IST
Pankaj Jaiswal
Pankaj Jaiswal
Hindustan Times
Soon after the Umbha carnage, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra headed for the village but was stopped by the administration which allegedly ‘detained’ her. (Photo  @priyankagandhi)
Soon after the Umbha carnage, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra headed for the village but was stopped by the administration which allegedly ‘detained’ her. (Photo @priyankagandhi)
         

The BJP’s big win in the Lok Sabha elections in May was also the Opposition parties’ third straight defeat in Uttar Pradesh since 2014, almost putting them in silent mode for two months.

The BJP alone won 62 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the most populous state of the country against 71 seats five years ago. In 2017, the BJP won 312 of the 403 assembly seats in the state.

For over two months after the Lok Sabha poll result came out on May 23, the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party looked demoralised and withdrawn.

The intermittent tweet attacks by the rivals on the BJP government in UP were like bees stinging a bear as the BJP has majority governments in both the state and the Centre.

But the Umbha massacre of July 17 and the Unnao rape survivor’s so-called car crash on July 28 suddenly made the opposition belligerent and put the government on the defensive.

Ten villagers, all tribals, were killed in alleged firing by men owing allegiance to the village head at Umbha in the backward Sonbhadra district of eastern Uttar Pradesh on July 17. The incident sent shockwaves across the country. Eleven days later, the car in which the Unnao rape survivor was travelling collided with a truck in Rae Bareli on July 28. Her two aunts were killed in the ‘accident’ while she and her lawyer were critically injured.

Soon after the Umbha carnage, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra headed for the village but was stopped by the administration which allegedly ‘detained’ her.

Calling the ‘detention’ illegal, Priyanka Gandhi announced she would not budge unless she was allowed to meet the family members of the Umbha massacre victims.

As she stayed at the Chunar guesthouse overnight, the administration allowed some victims’ kin to meet her. Images of them weeping in Priyanka’s arms were widely circulated.

The UP Congress too took to the streets with the sort of energy that the party had not seen for ages. Its workers staged a sit-in overnight. The Samajwadi Party too did not lag behind, holding statewide demonstrations and the party leaders were arrested on the way to Sonbhadra. The BSP, which generally does not take to streets, sent a delegation of party leaders to Sonbhadra.

All the Opposition parties ensured the start of the monsoon session of the assembly was an uproarious one.

Within minutes of the Unnao rape survivor’s ‘road accident’, the Samajwadi Party attacked the BJP government.

Priyanka Gandhi asked why rape-murder accused MLA, Kuldeep Sengar was still in the BJP. Thousands of Congress and SP leaders and workers were arrested, packed off on police buses and then released during the protests over the Umbha and the Unnao incidents.

While the Congress gave financial aid to Umbha victims’ kin; the Samajwadi Party gave cheques to the Unnao survivor’s family.

For its part, the state government removed the district magistrate and the superintendent of police of Sonbhadra and acted against many more officials. The Supreme Court took cognizance of the Unnao rape survivor accident case and transferred four related cases to Delhi. The BJP eventually expelled Sengar from the party.

Prof SK Dwivedi, a political analyst and retired head of the department of political sciences, Lucknow University, said, “Although the fact that the opposition parties have woken up might not get them any electoral gains so soon, it is good that they have resumed playing the opposition’s role. Now, they are getting noticed in the public eye.”

So, after the UP government announced VAT on petrol and diesel on August 19 evening, the opposition attacked the government the next morning. That meant around the same time chief minister Yogi Adityanath expanded his cabinet on Wednesday, many Congress workers rode cycle rickshaws to the BJP’s Lucknow headquarters to drive home their message against the fuel price hike.

Now, the bees are stinging the bear’s face.

First Published: Aug 22, 2019 20:49 IST