By M D Nalapat
Across the spectrum of governance, the focus in Uttar Pradesh has to be on speeding up an economy that has long been sluggish.
If truth be told, this columnist saw Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as a possible choice for the Chief Ministership of Uttar Pradesh, while his choice would have been Francisco D’Souza for the equivalent post in Goa. Given his charm and persuasive ability, it would have been a simple matter for Nitin Gadkari to have made the MGP drop its insistence on Manohar Parrikar being divested of the charge of Defence at the Central level and returned to the state, especially as Prime Minister Narendra Modi honoured Goa by appointing its own to such a prestigious ministry. Both Naqvi as well as D’Souza understand that only genuine secularism—where people of different faiths get treated the same, rather than be subjected to differential treatment— ensures a harmonious society. In Goa especially, the repeated acknowledgement by D’Souza of the common origins of every citizen of India (no matter the faith born to) show him to be an individual of principle. About Adityanath, that there are criminal cases pending against the new Chief Minister of UP has to be evaluated in the context of the speed with which such procedures can get initiated in India, a country where it is easier to deprive an individual of his or her wealth and liberty than in practically every other democracy on the planet. The question regarding Chief Minister Adityanath is less what he has been accused of in the past, than a possible propensity to seek to convert citizens into saints. Should the machinery of government be harnessed towards such an effort, the resultant frictions may set back what should be the CM’s primary quest: ensuring that the people of UP, principally the youth, get access to jobs. Dietary habits or the propensity for young people of both sexes to interact may indeed merit some change, but these need to be through social conscientisation, rather than use of the police in a state where killer mafias are a far bigger threat to citizens than Romeos. Also, it is doubtful that CM Adityanath will be able to convert many in the state to a saintly life, defined as free of buffalo meat or mixing with the opposite sex.It is welcome that Adityanath seems to be free of notions of caste superiority. From the time caste was associated with birth rather than with occupation, there took place a sclerotic change in the chemistry of society in ancient India that opened the pathway towards success in the battlefield of invaders more than a millennium ago. The new CM can show his contempt for “caste by birth” by ensuring through action that it is not only under the Samajwadi Party that Yadavs get fair treatment, or only under the Bahujan Samaj Party that Jatavs get their due, but in Yogi Raj as well. Merit judged by performance needs to get mainstreamed within the UP bureaucracy in a manner not seen since Sampurnanand in the 1950s. Across the spectrum of governance, the focus has to be on speeding up an economy that has long been sluggish, unlike Rajasthan and now Madhya Pradesh, where “vikas” has become more ubiquitous. Unless governance gets carried out in the “sabka saath” mode, there will be all too little of “vikas”. It may be spiritually satisfying to read newspaper headlines showing that buffalo meat has disappeared from hotel menus and the UP police have morphed into teachers of ethics. However, should the CM consider buffalo meat to be deleterious to human beings, what is needed is not the use of the police to prevent its consumption, but to ask social reformers to begin a padyatra across UP showing why this is so. Adityanath may himself have been a social reformer in his earlier avatar at Gorakhpur, but as Chief Minister, his task is to fill the stomachs of the hungry with food, fix absent or leaking roofs, ensure 21st century education to a people long denied even 19th century standards, and ensure access to healthcare for all. In such a context, waging a campaign against the English language or modern allopathy, for instance, may be counter-productive to the future of a state that represents the noblest traditions found in India. The transforming of UP into a 21st century success story is the headline that needs to get generated following the immense trust placed in him by PM Modi.
The voters of UP returned the BJP to power after a long interval because of their confidence in Prime Minister Modi’s promise of “Achhe Din”. This does not mean buffalo bans or the police devoting more attention to Romeos than to Mafiosi. It means the overhauling of government to replace selection based on caste and community with merit and integrity. It means the pruning of regulations designed only to ensure a steady flow of bribes to the corrupt. It means a culture of governance that promotes genuine secularism, rather than pandering to select communities, while ignoring the needs of others. CM Adityanath is no longer in the business of sainthood as he earlier was; he is in the maelstrom of development. And the only gauge of his success will be a robust rate of growth in the UP economy and an absence of social tensions in a state that has been serially let down by its politicians.