The UP government’s handling of the situation would give the Opposition the pound of meat to attack both Adityanath and Modi, and raise serious questions about their claim of good governance
The mood of the Independence Day celebrations was marred by the news of death of innocent children in Gorakhpur, the home town and karmabhumi of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
But the tragedy in Gorakhpur is a microcosm of what ails the state. This unfortunate and probably avoidable tragedy has many lessons for the chief minister, if only he is ready to pay heed.
The massive mandate that the BJP got represented a desperation for change. A ruler in a democracy must remember that voters’ patience is thin. It will not be long before the electorate start asking ‘Is this the change we had voted for?’
Since taking charge as chief minister in March, Adityanath has made numerous visits to Gorakhpur, the most recent being on August 9. He had reviewed the preparations at BRD Medical College & Hospital in Gorakhpur. The following day, when the news of children’s death started doing the rounds, Yogi was in the neighbouring district of Maharajganj. How did he miss this looming crisis in the hospital?
Only in June, Adityanath had appointed eight officers on special duty (OSDs), out of which six had worked closely with him in Gorakhpur mutt. The arrangement was made to help the CM govern the state efficiently – especially because the mutt is an oasis of clean, well-run institution in a city otherwise marked by garbage-strewn streets, disease and unemployment.
So, the question arises: who kept the CM in the dark about the real situation of the district, and in the hospital? And if he can be kept in the dark by his trusted lieutenants about a place where he had worked for more than two decades, it is bad news for the ruler. Or did the OSDs themselves fail to read the signs?
But it bears mention here that most of the OSDs that were appointed were generalists with no domain expertise in the complexities of governing a large, inefficient state.
Governing UP has never been easy. By virtue of its sheer size, it is one of the most difficult states to govern. With a population of about 20 crore, 80 Lok Sabha seats, 31 Rajya Sabha seats and 403 assembly seats, it is always high on the political radar. But the high seat in the state comes with its own share of thorns.
A tragedy of this scale and the government’s handling of the crisis would give the opposition the pound of meat to attack both Adityanath and Modi, and raise serious questions about their claim of good governance and development. Modi cannot afford this. The last poll campaign was all about the failures of the UPA, especially Congress party. But next Lok Sabha poll campaign will be centred around NDA’s track record.
The Yogi government is already under attack from the opposition for the poor law and order situation. Although the chief minister has been a five-time member of parliament, he has never held any administrative post. And has never ventured out of Gorakhpur. So, his pool of trusted bureaucrats is low. Some cite his inexperience for his tardy record in efficiency, others blame the style of his politics.
Initially, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had decided to rush a team of the junior health minister and the health secretary to take stock of the situation in Gorakhpur. But then, suddenly, that decision was changed. The Union health minister J P Nadda went instead.
The stakes are high for Modi. The next general elections are less than two years away. In the BJP’s arithmetic of securing a majority in the next Lok Sabha, Uttar Pradesh counts quite high with its 80 seats. In this Lok Sabha, BJP has 73 seats in alliance with its NDA partners. And most importantly, Modi himself represents Varanasi in Lok Sabha, a constituency which together with Gorakhpur forms part of Purvanchal, eastern part of Uttar Pradesh.
But the moot question is: whose patience will wear out first: electorates’ or Modi’s? The time for making the necessary fixes, if any, is running out.