Lucknow: The days of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath spewing fiery rhetoric seem to be a thing of the past. Of late, Adityanath has kept largely quiet, putting his hardline Hindutva image in cold storage and hunkering down to focus on matters of governance.
Since the Lok Sabha elections, his public speeches have been replaced by closed-door departmental review meetings, where officials are routinely pulled up. Officials say since 12 June, Adityanath has held at least 30 such meetings, and taken action against at least 600 officials for corruption and negligence — around 200 have been forced to retire, while the rest have been transferred, suspended, or had their promotions stopped.
Insiders say earlier this week, in a review meeting on drinking water supply, Adityanath did not even spare a senior IAS officer. “He held him responsible for delay in decision-making and asked him why he took no cognisance of the delay. He told him that ‘since minutes of all meetings are sent to you, you are equally responsible’,” a source told ThePrint.
It isn’t just officials he has cracked the whip on — it’s also entire departments. On 25 June, the CM sought a substitute for the UP Jal Nigam, which he said was “on a ventilator”. In the first week of August, he even threatened to blacklist the Uttar Pradesh Rajkiya Nirman Nigam (UPRNN) for delaying the construction of six medical colleges in the state.
In July, the 24-hour CM helpline — 1076 — was launched in Lucknow, to receive complaints and address grievances. Armed with a 500-employee-strong call centre, the CM Helpline system directs complaints to the department concerned for quick redressal.
During the launch, Adityanath had claimed that action would be taken against senior officials of departments where complaints are not addressed within a week. Moreover, the CM also claimed that he would hold monthly reviews of the helpline by personally addressing 100 calls.
Why the shift in priority?
A senior UP BJP leader explained this shift in Adityanath’s priorities by differentiating between how politicians work during elections and how they function once they hold ministerial posts.
“Election campaign work is about creating public perception, but when we are in the government, we have to conduct ourselves and say things which fall within the boundaries of the Constitution,” the leader said.
“In politics, a lot of things are said to build perception and are not backed by proof. For instance, many critical remarks about (Samajwadi Party MP) Azam Khan can be made by leaders of a political party, but cannot be made by a minister or the CM.”
Another BJP insider said the shift has been made to establish a ‘Yogi brand of governance’ in UP. While the BJP and its ally Apna Dal won 64 of UP’s 80 seats in the Lok Sabha polls, many believe the victory was built on ‘brand Modi’ and the schemes introduced by the Centre.
“This is a fact, even though the UP government did work towards the implementation of these schemes. However, the next elections here will be assembly bypolls, and then the 2022 assembly polls. For this, there is a need to have Yogi Adityanath’s imprint on a governance model,” said the leader quoted above.
Opposition ‘created’ Yogi’s hardline image
For BJP leaders and ministers, Adityanath’s focus on governance doesn’t come as a surprise. They claim his image of a Hindu hardliner had been created by the opposition parties as part of their “propaganda” against him and the BJP.
UP BJP spokesman Rakesh Tripathi said: “This is the same propaganda which had been created about the BJP — that if the BJP forms government, it will not work for the welfare of minorities, especially Muslims, and it will make them second-class citizens. The opposition has always tried to build this perception and spread this rumour.
“But today, we can say this with confidence that for the welfare of minorities, the biggest budget and maximum schemes have been rolled out under Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath’s governments.”
UP Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma, who also holds the education portfolio, added: “People used to paint a wrong picture of him, but Yogi ji has always said that tushtikaran kisi ka nahin, nyay sabke liye (appeasement for no one, justice for everyone).
“When Yogi ji says that cremation grounds should also be made (along with graveyards), people will call him communal. When he will state his stand on Ram Janmabhoomi, people will call him communal. But not a single communal incident has taken place in UP under him. No one can say today that minorities have been harassed. Irrespective of caste and religion, action has been taken against everyone.”
Apart from the decline in communal incidents, UP ministers also quote figures about rising investments, stating that Rs 1.5 lakh crore has come in to the state under Adityanath.
Sharma added: “If you look at his Lok Sabha proceedings (when Adityanath was the Gorakhpur MP), Yogi ji has always been interested in the development process. He had put forth his vision of how Gorakhpur and the Purvanchal region should be developed. After becoming the CM, he made development his agenda, unlike previous CMs.”
The opposition, however, has refuted the claims by the BJP. Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Choudhary said an image of good governance was being created by the Adityanath government only to mislead people. He added that it was Adityanath himself who had created his image of a hardliner with his controversial speeches, not the opposition.
“They (BJP) are playing with facts and giving misleading data to create a perception that the government is functioning very well. While the fact is that the current government is catering to the interests of a few big corporates and elites,” said Choudhary.
“They are not pursuing a Hindutva agenda but an agenda where they are spreading hate among communities. Hindu farmers and youth are in agricultural distress and are unemployed,” he said.