Lucknow: BJP MLAs in Uttar Pradesh are up in arms against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, with his detractors calling for the formation of an “MLAs’ union”, questioning his claims about “zero tolerance against corruption”, and even publicly questioning the “attitude” of the police.
Government sources said the CM had issued orders to all officials in UP to show “zero tolerance” on crime, corruption, etc., and so, officials now don’t even listen to the local MP/MLAs’ recommendations. This seems to have led to disgruntlement among the BJP legislators against their own leader — party sources say it has been brewing for at least six months, and came to a head on 17 December when over 100 BJP MLAs staged a sit-in protest inside the UP assembly against the government.
A BJP MLA, who did not want to be identified, said more than a dozen of his colleagues were still annoyed by the fact that officials from their regions didn’t listen to any of their grievances.
“We are public representatives and it is our duty to facilitate different works on behalf of the people. If the work is not done, the public becomes agitated and the MLAs have to pay the price for all this during the elections,” the MLA told ThePrint.
“The CM has a strict image, but the officials have hijacked the entire system. They are not even listening to public representatives. Where are we expected to go with our grievances? This is why so many MLAs opted to stage a sit-in protest in the assembly.”
And what’s more, the CM’s order to officials to crack down on corruption doesn’t seem to have worked either. In November, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya had written a letter to the CM, giving a list of alleged scams in the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA), which falls under the housing and town planning department controlled by the CM. Following this, the LDA blacklisted 11 firms.
What triggered the 17 December protest
Nand Kishore Gurjar, the BJP MLA from Loni, was trying to raise the issue of being harassed by the Ghaziabad Police in the assembly on 17 December, but wasn’t allowed to speak. He staged an impromptu sit-in protest, and was joined by BJP legislators as well as those from opposition parties. The assembly proceedings were hastily suspended.
Adityanath then met Gurjar and some other MLAs to mollify them, but it doesn’t seem to have worked. BJP leaders have continued to speak out against the government, even though their voices have got muffled under the shrill political debate over the UP Police’s crackdown on people protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Gurjar issued a statement, saying the CM’s stated dream of “zero tolerance against corruption” can’t be fulfilled in the prevailing circumstances. He said he fully respects the CM, but action must be taken against officials involved in his harassment — they have allegedly demanded 18-22 per cent commission. He went on to say if a proper investigation is carried out into property amassed by these officers’ spouses, they will be fully exposed.
The Ghaziabad district administration has reacted to these allegations by saying that FIRs have been lodged against Gurjar in 12 different cases — which the MLA claims he has been framed in.
A host of issues
Since the protest, other BJP MLAs have also spoken out. Hardoi MLA Shyam Prakash posted a suggestion on social media to form an MLAs’ union. In August 2019, he had written on his Facebook page: “The chief minister has adopted a tough stand, but corruption is still not going down.”
Prakash had targeted the UP government and state officials, writing that more than “95 per cent” of them were corrupt. “Extortion in the form of ‘commission’ is growing everywhere. Even valid payments are not being made due to growing demands of commission. I request the respected chief minister to take it seriously, and take strict cognisance,” he had written.
Harshvardhan Bajpai, the MLA from Allahabad North, termed the protest as “unity against corruption”.
But there are other factors too behind the MLAs’ anger. Tindwari MLA Brajesh Prajapati was apparently so aggrieved by the denial of VIP treatment in his home district Banda that he wrote a letter to CM Adityanath complaining against the superintendent of police.
The phenomenon is not just restricted to MLAs. Kaushal Kishore, BJP MP from Lucknow’s Mohanlalganj Lok Sabha seat, also made serious allegations against the Lucknow Police. Recently, he called the police out for its “negative” attitude, which he alleged had made criminal elements go out of control. “Murder and loot are going on unabated,” he wrote.
— Kaushal Kishore (@mp_kaushal) December 29, 2019
BJP denies Akhilesh’s allegations
Speaking to ThePrint, former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party had alleged that the UP government had instigated violence in order to shift focus away from the sit-in protest by BJP MLAs. He had claimed that more than 200 BJP MLAs were annoyed with Adityanath.
ThePrint has learnt that BJP organisation secretary Sunil Bansal and state president Swatantra Dev Singh had met the disgruntled MLAs and assured them they would convey their feelings to the CM. This is why the sulking MLAs are refusing to comment now on the issue, even though the resentment still persists.
However, the BJP’s state spokesperson Manoj Mishra denied all this. He said while reports of the MLAs’ resentment have surfaced in the media, all is well within in the party, and it wouldn’t be right to tag any of the MLAs as ‘rebels’.
— Kaushal Kishore (@mp_kaushal) December 29, 2019
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.