By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Political commentators were expecting a complete overhaul in the administration of Uttar Pradesh when Akhilesh Yadav became chief minister in March. He is a dynamic young face who had no past experience in the administration though he belonged to a powerful political family of the state. Akhilesh also tried to change the image of Samajwadi Party which was always considered to be anti development as well as anti English. The people of the state felt that he would work for a new Uttar-Pradesh with his developmental programmes and without the politics of vendetta. In Akhilesh, they found a man, who look ahead rather than clinging on the past so that a positive developmental agenda is set for future.
However they were deeply disappointed to see the absence of new faces in his cabinet. It looked a highly uninspiring cabinet yet people were ready to wait for Akhilesh in the hope that he would slowly start taking charge and come out of the coterie of his party which not only had criminal background but socially most of them had been working against the interests of the most marginalized communities. It was displayed during the oath taking ceremony when too many of the Samajwadi Party loyalists had created ruckus in front of the governor, much to embarrassment of the party leadership. In districts, the Dalits were targeted by Samajwadi Party workers during the victory processions of their leader. SP leaders and their cadres were openly flouting the rules in the state and it looked as if they were waiting for this day to create chaos in the state. For many days, Uttar-Pradesh remained under Samajwadi variety of celebrations which was turning absolutely caste-ist in nature by instigating violence against Dalits in the rural areas.
It was clear that both Mulayam and Mayawati have been playing the politics of vendetta whenever they came to power in the state. They have used state machinery for their own political agendas which revolve around symbolism of their respective communities. It is most unfortunate to the two parties who should have been working closely for the welfare of the people in the state are at the loggerheads today. In politics, differences are bound to happen but those differences are settled in humility and in great dignity. In the past, political leaders across the party lines have been friendly to each other despite their political differences and never lacked decency in their personal relationship. But that is not the order of the day today.
Though we cannot blame Samajwadi Party alone for this crisis in Uttar-Pradesh but it is also a reality that the party has not made any specific effort to do away with an image of it which is clearly anti Dalit. It has made no effort to reach out the Dalits. In fact, it seems to promote political leaders and activities which clearly reflect that it does not want them to be counted as its voters. Its cadres know it well that the party supports their activities and will openly protect them if caught. Most of the leaders of the party have a history with anti dalit agendas. Many of them had actually threatened to withdraw ‘Prevention of Atrocities Act’ in Uttar-Pradesh which is derogatorily and deliberately termed as ‘Harijan Act’ despite the known fact that the government of India has specific instruction for not using the term ‘Harijan’ in any of the official communiqué.
The Samajwadi party leadership in the state has targeted Dalits in such a way as if they alone have been the beneficiary of all the government programmes. The recent orders of changing the names of various schemes as well as disbanding some of them reflect the mindset of the political leadership in the state. Mayawati might be political rival of Samajwadi Party but she has also initiated many schemes which were very innovative and helped the most marginalized people in the state. It is shocking to see that the state government has decided to close Ambedkar Gram Vikas Yojna which was the most important project of the BSP government. This actually brought various schemes of the government in the villages like Primary Health Centre, connecting road, primary schools etc to make it a comprehensive developmental package for the most marginalized villages with substantial Dalit population. One does not know what exactly will be the nature of the schemes but it has been disbanded and now a new scheme for village development has been initiated as Lohia Gram Vikas Yojna. The state government is also targeting various new districts developed by Ms Mayawati.
None can deny the facts that Dalits have not got due share for their contribution in India. The revolutionaries of the Dalit Bahujan movements in India never found space in the central locations or mainstream political discourse which was reserved for the high caste Hindus. Uttar-Pradesh which has so many important Buddhist destinations did not even recognize them before Mayawati initiated the process of renovating them and restoring them to their historical root. In fact, despite all her short comings and distances with people, Mayawati should be credited to restore the Buddhist heritage of India. That contribution of her needs to be acknowledged and respected. India as land of Buddha has unfortunately never adopted as his ideas threatened the status quo of the brahmanical elite in the country.
When Akhilesh Yadav assumed office of the chief minister of Uttar-Pradesh, many of us had felt that it was a wise decision by the SP chief Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav in the interest of the state. In his initial press conferences, the incumbent chief minister actually refused to be drawn in the controversy of parks but added that it would be his endeavor to build either hospitals or schools in the vacant land of the parks. State government has full right and authority to investigate the corruption charges in building up memorials and parks but it should desist in targeting the parks or memorials as they are symbols of the rich legacy of the Dalit Bahujan movement in India. They were the people who we can proudly say propagated humanism in India. The Samajwadi government has no authority to undo a historical monument just because it wants to placate the upper caste votes. It would not serve any purpose as it might face wide ranging protest from its own people.
It is unfortunate that the Uttar-Pradesh government is not working with a positive agenda. The Samajwadi Party came to power with a number of promises to youths and farmers. It promised to pay unemployment allowance to youths and distribution of laptop to every student who has passed his intermediate exams. Now, after coming to power, they seems to have realized that all these promises are difficult to fulfill hence unearthing everything that Mayawati did during her tenures and blaming her for ever failure of the government.
Governance has been the biggest casualty during the past few decades in Uttar-Pradesh . It is not that the upper caste lead Congress and BJP were doing great business there but what was expected from both the Samajwadi and Bahujan Samajwadi Party has merely been reduced to politics of symbolism. .
Both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are responsible for this dirty game of pitching these great political ideologues against each other. Ram Manohar Lohia has been a great political leader and there is no doubt that his political action resulted in empowerment of the backward castes politically in Uttar-Pradesh. However, Akhilesh and his advisers must known that Ram Manohar Lohia was a great admirer of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and actually talked of making him the prime minister of the country.
Samajwadi party must also think that though Ram Manohar Lohia is a great political philosopher, it would be a grave injustice to push him as the leader of backward castes in the state. The Samajwadis need to read Jyoti Ba Phule, Shahuji Maharaj, EV Ramasamy Naicar Periyar apart from Baba Saheb Ambedkar who worked for annihiliation of castes and for an egalitarian society. Lohia cannot be clubbed with this revolutionary class of Dalit Bahujan movement as at the end of the day Lohiaism culminate at Gandhi-ism.
Akhilesh still has not lost good will of the people though their patience is running out. It would be better if he focuses on governance and development and not on creating caste animosities among various segments of the society. At the end of the day, his government will have to deliver otherwise people of the state will not wait for too long.