The political atmosphere in Uttar Pradesh hotted up on Friday with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath giving broad hints of what he intends to do in the next seven to eight months in the run-up to the assembly elections. He indicated the direction in which his election campaign will proceed.
Yogi lashed out at Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for the latter’s remark that “I can’t trust the actions of UP police and Yogi-led BJP government in the state”. Two days ago, Akhilesh Yadav had made this remark over the arrest by an anti-terrorist squad of two suspected pro-Al-Qaeda terrorists belonging to Ansar Ghazwatul Hind from Kakori. ATS officials said they were planning to send “human bombs” to carry out blasts in several places. A large amount of explosives were also seized after their arrest.
Yogi also alleged that ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans were raised at a protest organized by an SP leader in Agra. He said, “this shows that these people can put national security at stake for the sake of vote bank politics”. The chief minister also alleged that unemployed youths and children with hearing disabilities are being converted into Islam by ‘jihadi elements’.
Yogi said recent trends of certain elements changing their identities and using children with disabilities to spread “jihadi unmaad’ (jihadi frenzy) has proven that his government’s move to enforce anti-conversion law was right. UP police have arrested five persons in connection with chanting of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans at the rally of SP leader Wajid Nisar. The SP leader has distanced himself and his party from this incident saying that those who chanted this slogan were not SP workers.
I want to say here: no Indian, whether a Hindu, or Muslim, or Sikh or Christian, whatsoever grievance he or she may have against the government, will ever chant pro-Pakistan slogan. No party or leader in India can ever dream of getting votes by allowing pro-Pakistan slogans in rallies. I would like the UP police to take voice samples and check whether such slogans were indeed chanted by protesters at that rally in Agra. If some mischievous person has transposed the audio of such slogans on the video, he must be taken to task by authorities.
It will not be right to blame Akhilesh Yadav or Samajwadi Party for this sloganeering. Until and unless the probe is complete, one should not give much credence to such a video. Some dirty tricks do take place during election time. By raising such an issue of pro-Pakistan sloganeering, parties can try to corner people’s support by strongly opposing such incidents.
In his speech, Yogi said those who support Pakistan are also supporters of ‘love jihad’. Already a strict law against love jihad is in place in UP, and cases of people trying to convert Hindu girls by using fake identities have come to notice. Yogi also replied to those who are criticizing his government’s Covid management policy. He asked, where were those Opposition leaders when people were fighting the second wave of the pandemic.
On Friday, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi staged a silent protest with party workers near the Gandhi statue in Lucknow over what she called “violence and gross irregularities” during the recent block panchayat elections. She also raised the issue of violence against women in particular.
There is much time left for the state assembly polls in UP. Already, BJP and Samajwadi Party are making hectic preparations for the selection of candidates and issues before going to the polls. The last assembly polls in 2017 were historic for the BJP. It had won 312 seats in a House of 403, relegating all other parties to only 91 seats. During that election, Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi had jointly campaigned, but it proved to be a disaster. The then ruling Samajwadi Party’s tally crumbled from 224 to 47, while the Congress tally was reduced to seven. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party contested all the seats and faced a near rout winning only 19 seats.
After ruling for four and a half years, BJP leaders will now have to show their performance cards to the electorate. Most of the opposition parties are trying to corner Yogi over the Covid management issue. The pandemic may be under control in UP now, but during the months from April to June, there was a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and critical medicines. There were long queues of bodies outside crematoriums, and visuals of bodies floating in the river Ganga or buried in sand at the banks of Ganga were a sickening sight. Samajwadi Party and Congress leaders are trying to rake up such issues before the people as the dates for elections approach.
As far as Priyanka Gandhi is concerned, it is only two and a half years that she has been given charge of UP. She has been on the move across the state to shore up her party workers’ morale. The state organization is practically in shambles, dogged by infighting between different camps. Rahul Gandhi has already lost his Amethi constituency, and the BJP is now eyeing Sonia Gandhi’s Raebareli constituency. To bring back the Congress into political reckoning in UP will be an uphill task for Priyanka Gandhi. At least, she is now being seen moving around the state raising issues relating to common people. It is for the party leaders how to make the most of her presence.
Yogi’s speech clearly outlines the strategy that he is planning for the forthcoming assembly polls. He wants to make religious conversion and terrorism the twin issues on which he would launch his campaign.
BJP president JP Nadda who addressed the state party executive also advised state leaders how to deal with propaganda being made by opposition parties against Yogi’s government.
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