Rising crime dents Yogi's image

Trouble in UP: There is sharp spurt in incidents when compared with corresponding period last year

Rising crime dents Yogi's image
For a party which swept to power on the promise to rid Uttar Pradesh (UP) of ‘goonda raj’ and establish the rule of law, the first 75 days has proved to be a huge embarrassment for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the BJP with the state witnessing a sharp spurt in crime. In fact, such was the embarrassment even within the BJP that a senior minister went to the extent of saying that no government could fully control crime in a big state like UP, an argument advanced by the previous Samajwadi Party (SP) regime. Other BJP leaders and ministers sounded exasperated when they said what had been done in the state during the past 15 years of SP and Bahujan Samaj Party rule could not be undone quickly. “It will take time to establish the rule of law in UP....there is a need to change the mindset of the police...it cannot be achieved in a few months,” said a senior BJP leader.

The brutal gang-rape of four women close to the Yamuna Expressway near Noida, Dalit-Thakur clashes in Saharanpur that left two dead, a dozen communal clashes, including one in Muzaffarnagar, big robberies and murders have jolted the Yogi regime which came to power in March.

Shrikant Sharma, a senior minister in the Yogi Cabinet, had to face the peoples’ wrath in Mathura after two jewellers were shot dead and ornaments worth several crores looted. The minister was heckled by angry bullion traders. The gang-rape incident triggered a massive outrage and even the Centre had to seek a report from the state government.

Saharanpur still continues to haunt the BJP government. Party MP from Saharanpur, Raghav Lakhanpal, his brother and a large number of party workers allegedly attacked the then district police chief’s residence, terrorising his family, after the police denied Lakhanpal permission to take out a procession through a Muslim-dominated area. Lakhanpal and his brother, Rahul, were booked on different charges. A local court recently issued a non-bailable warrant against Rahul and some others but they are yet to be arrested. Dalits were attacked and their houses set ablaze by the “upper caste” Thakurs at Shabbirpur village in the district following a clash over taking out a procession. The attacks triggered retaliation from the Dalits, who indulged in large-scale violence.

 Numerous warnings by the chief minister to the police and other officials to rein in criminals have gone unheeded. Adityanath, in an apparent bid to improve law and order, shunted out over 200 IPS and Provincial Police Service (PPS) officers, but it did not have the desired effect.

The chief minister also changed the state police chief and the chiefs of almost all the districts. The shooting crime graph has left the BJP concerned as the next Lok Sabha election is just two years away.

“We may suffer if the law and order situation in the state does not improve,” a senior state BJP leader told DH. Several party leaders feel that the incidents of crime have drowned many an important and significant pro-people decisions taken by the chief minister. “No one talks about the crop loan waiver or improved power supply and other measures initiated by the state government...Only crime has hogged the limelight,” another senior leader said.

More worrisome is the fact that even the ruling party legislators and leaders have been accused of taking the law into their hands. There have been reports of BJP MLAs and leaders assaulting and threatening cops and getting criminals released forcibly from police custody. A few days ago, a BJP legislator assaulted a traffic cop who stopped his vehicle as it was moving on the wrong lane. The MLA’s supporter also slapped the policeman.

Maintaining a brave face

BJP leaders, however, are putting up a brave face. “We have cracked down on criminal elements....The government has acted tough against the mining mafia....We will make sure that criminals are put in jail,” said BJP leader Vijay Bahadur Pathak. He also rejected allegations that his party colleagues are acting like a law unto themselves.

“There is no truth in such allegations... BJP workers never indulge in lawlessness....The chief minister has acted without being partial in every case,” Pathak said. Earlier, the BJP had accused the SP leaders of threatening and assaulting cops and turning police stations into party offices. Now the SP leaders are levelling the same allegations against the BJP.
 
Rising crimes have given an opportunity to the Opposition to corner the BJP government. “This government has failed to ensure the safety of women... Criminals are ruling the highways,” said SP leader Rajendra Chaudhary. In fact, the Opposition parties plan to hit the streets to register their protest against the rising incidents of crime. “The honeymoon period is over,” said Chaudhary. Political analysts say that the perception that Yogi is a tough administrator and that he can deliver, especially on the law and order front, has started to change as the crime graph has soared since he took charge.

 “A similar perception had formed around Akhilesh Yadav when he assumed charge after the 2012 Assembly polls...it changed quickly and cost Akhilesh dear....The BJP may meet the same fate if it fails to rein in criminals,” said Prof Dinesh Kumar, a political observer and former faculty member at Lucknow University. With the next Lok Sabha elections barely two years away and the BJP’s hopes to return to power at the Centre hinging mainly on UP, which sends 80 MPs to the Lower House, the next few months would be crucial for Adityanath. And if the BJP insiders are to be believed, his performance would be under scrutiny.

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