New Delhi: The Hathras ‘gang rape’ and assault case has yet again put the spotlight on Uttar Pradesh, with CM Yogi Adityanath being targeted and questioned for the law and order situation in the state.
The death of the 20-year-old Dalit victim and her hurried cremation has evoked anger and grief across the country.
But amid all the outrage, the opposition leaders in UP are conspicuous by their absence on the ground. While the three leaders — Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati and Congress’ Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — have tweeted about the incident, none of them has so far visited the victim’s family.
Yadav is learnt to be in London on a personal visit, while Mayawati and Gandhi are both in the country.
This comes even as Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad had been protesting outside Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital where the victim was being treated. Azad was allegedly detained by the UP police late Tuesday, when he was on his way to Hathras.
Analysts say the presence of such leaders is essential in these cases to be seen as an “active, persistent and on-ground opposition” and that Twitter acts as “a weak substitute.”
Former CM Akhilesh Yadav posted a few tweets Tuesday, the day the woman passed away. “There is no hope from this insensitive government,” he wrote in a tweet.
In another tweet, Yadav shared a video of SP’s female party workers protesting against the incident. But besides these tweets, Yadav has given no statement.
हाथरस की बेटी बलात्कार-हत्याकांड’ में शासन के दबाव में, परिवार की अनुमति बिना, रात्रि में पुलिस द्वारा अंतिम संस्कार करवाना, संस्कारों के विरुद्ध है. ये सबूतों को मिटाने का घोर निंदनीय कृत्य है.
— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) September 30, 2020
— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) September 29, 2020
In a tweet, BSP supremo and former CM Mayawati Wednesday said the party “strongly condemns the police’s incorrect behaviour”. She also said the BSP demands that the government helps the family in every way and ensures fast track court delivers punishment to the perpetrators. But her outrage, too, was limited only to Twitter.
Congress’ UP general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also expressed her condemnation through a series of tweets. “On the phone with the Hathras victim’s father when he was informed that his daughter had passed away,” she said Wednesday.
“Instead of protecting the victim and her family, your government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right, even in death. You have no moral right to continue as Chief Minister,” she further wrote, demanding Adityanath’s resignation.
I was on the phone with the Hathras victim’s father when he was informed that his daughter had passed away. I heard him cry out in despair. 1/3
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) September 30, 2020
While Gandhi had visited families of Unnao rape victim and victims of anti-CAA protests last year, she has mostly kept to herself since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in March.
‘Twitter a poor substitute for ground politics’
Experts say the opposition leaders’ absence betrays their “lack of seriousness and commitment”.
“Law and order reputations of a government can be defined by such sensational cases that grab national headlines. But the precondition is an active, persistent, on-ground opposition,” Asim Ali, research associate at Centre for Policy Research said.
“Merely tweeting is a poor substitute. BJP uses twitter as a force multiplier, but the opposition is using it as a substitute in a state where the vast majority of people wouldn’t have heard of Twitter,” he said.
“If anything it reinforces the narrative of a weak, ineffectual and remote opposition. It betrays a lack of seriousness and commitment, and helps to portray the opposition as non-serious, part-time politicians.
This was the image that the BJP has succeeded to crystallise for Rahul Gandhi, and this is exactly what Priyanka Gandhi should be seeking to avoid,” Ali added.
Political analyst Badri Narayan said this was an “opportunity for the opposition to exert themselves as the credible opposition”.
“The ruling party as well as the opposition party should be there to at least give their condolences to the family and share their grief,” he said.
“Moreover, for the opposition, this is an opportunity to build pressure on the government and demand accountability, and also be seen as exerting themselves as a credible opposition.”
While the three opposition leaders have been posting tweets, workers of their parties have been holding protests in different districts of the state.
“This is the tragedy of modern Indian politics. All the leaders think their politics can happen on twitter, but this is not true. If the party workers can be on ground, they can be too,” Narayan said.