Tag Archives: Uttar Pradesh

Akhilesh Yadav’s Master Act

7 Aug
Akhilesh Yadav teaches IAS officers a lesson on the importance of being earnest.

Akhilesh Yadav teaches IAS officers a lesson on the importance of being earnest.

The young Chief Minister of UP is a harried man. His, as Shakespeare would have said, is the nobler mind that has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, the whips and scorns of time, the thousand natural shocks, the…well, a lot of beastly stuff. But does he repine? No, my dear readers, he does not. Does he cower? No, he does not. Does he dither? Nope.  One would have thought, he would at least “grunt and sweat under a weary life”. But no, not for our Hindi Heartland Boy the Hamletian way.  In his suited, booted and scented glory, he plods ahead, trampling on the opposition, throwing verbal punches in the air and teaching  his state’s erring hirelings a thing or two about piety and public service.

Donning the suit of the political master, the head that wears the weary crown, roared during a public gathering, “There might be many children who would have received a beating from teachers and parents whenever they did something wrong….The government is also run like this. Whenever any official does something wrong, he is punished.” In this case, it was a “she” going by the befitting moniker of Durga Shakti Nagpal, who was found guilty of disturbing the peace in the class and was duly punished for her errant ways.  Now, one would have thought the matter would have ended there.   But the slings and arrows of fortune had another round ready for the suspiring souls of the Samajwadi Party (SP).

The first in line was the intemerate Narendra Bhati. As the SP MLA of Gautam Budh Nagar and the chairperson of the UP State Agro Industrial Corporation Limited, Bhati was often forced to face the errant one in her capacity as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate.  A politician of the old order, who wholeheartedly subscribed to the idea of bureaucratic anonymity being the same as “to serve in silence”, he was unnerved to find the lady talk back, and that too, with a decided bite in her tone.  Even then he would not have despaired had it not been for Nagpal’s high in the instep actions.

The story goes something like this.  Gautam Budh Nagar and its border areas are something of a gold mine. Well, sand mine if we are going to be picky about it. One fine day, some enterprising folks decided that the sands around the rivers Yamuna and Hindon were making a poor show of it by lying there listless and not doing their stuff for the manufacturers of concrete. With a spit and a shovel, the enterprising ones picked up the lazy lot by the truckloads (250-350 trucks per day) and started a highly profitable business ( running to more than USD 85 million per annum) for themselves and for those who silently but sedulously supported them. Into this sunny state of affairs, marches in Nagpal, cracking the whip for the green lot, and seizing 24 trucks, impounding 297 vehicles and fining the sandmen right, left and centre. In  just three months,  she made the state richer and the enterprising ones  poorer by ₹80 lakhs. Such a thing was bound to sour relations between the sand barons and their silent but sedulous supporters. No wonder, another august member of SP, Azam Khan, was so shocked that he rushed to defend the aggrieved ones, “Ram nam ki loot hai, loot sako toh loot lo” (You are allowed to loot in Ram’s name).  After all, ours is an extraction-based economy. When we excel at it, why try something else.

Bhati decided to beard the lioness prudently outside her own den. Making a few phone calls and putting gentle pressure here and there, he managed to get Nagpal suspended. But then totally awed by his dexterity in doing so,  Bhati who found himself at a public meeting in Badalpur village, just had to share with all and sundry that it had been he, dear old Bhati, who had in “41 minutes” effected the speedy removal of Nagpal.  The media gleefully jumped  all over the story and aired it as Bhati’s 41 minutes of machination. Akhilesh Yadav was not amused. It didn’t help that most of his party members had the mugs of escaped criminals despite their hearts being in the right place. Yadav shouted. The media shouted back.  He refused to recall Nagpal and his bête noire, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), decided to make matters more interesting by supporting Nagpal. Oh, the irony was delicious. BSP’s political symbol is the elephant but it was the SP that could very well fit the role of an elephant that had gone rogue, crushing  its opposition, the law of the land, whatever came in its way.

So, with the public opinion on SP taking a nose-dive and the media getting  riled by Akhilesh’s lord of the manner ways, one would have thought restraint would have been the order of the day.  One, like Nagpal, would have erred. Akhilesh and his Bicycle Boys , who so loved silence on the part of the bureaucrats, hated it when it came to their own exhortations.

They  happily hooted and hollered: “Nagpal is young and immature!  She should apologize to the government! She should be punished!  Let’s chargesheet her! Let’s arrest her! Oh, the IAS lobby is supporting her? Well, the whole lot of IAS officers can go to Siberia, er, New Delhi, for all we care as long as they don’t sully UP with their putrid presence!” The last priceless gem should not go unattributed. The honour goes to Ram Gopal Yadav, the Rajya Sabha MP belonging to SP.  UP’s Health Minister Ahmad Hasan, not to be outdone, joined the merry melee, “Yo, media! You blackguard! Woe to the lot of you Nagpal-worshiping, besmircher of all things good and pure. Shout-out to SP!  Nagpal, repent. I would never speak ill of anyone. Her family has a terrible past, only if you  knew! Terrible! Terrible!”  Dear readers, I might paraphrase what he said, but I wish I could convey the sheer conviction of a man who could look at the sun and declare it to be totally lacking in light and warmth.  What am I talking about? Well, here comes the nub of the story.

UP, the most populous state in the country, is ruled by politicians swinging to the siren song of caste and communal vote-bank politics. Bhati, who had flubbed up the 2009 elections, needed to shore up his Muslim vote base.  A Local Intelligence Unit report claimed that he had ponyed up ₹51, 000 to build the  wall of a mosque on a gram sabha land in Kadalpur Village of Guatam Budh Nagar. That made the wall illegal. The villagers did not ask for it and saw it as an encroachment of their land. The District Magistrate ordered its demolition and it was carried out in the presence of the SDM of Jewar, Bachchu Singh.  Not SDM Durga Shakti Nagpal. The SP had no choice but to dismiss Nagpal for fanning communal tensions by ordering the demolition of a mosque.  Only the last line is the truth and nothing but the unalloyed, unvarnished, totally factual, and no-one-can-tell-me-otherwise truth, according to SP’s Ahmad Hasan.

Obviously, Nagpal was present in spirit if not in body. Further, the law doesn’t know everything, as an SP member pointed out during a prime-time show on NDTV, for the wall (also a mosque, according to SP) was not an illegal encroachment on village land but a cultural construction. The Muslim villagers and the Wakf members did not see it as such and called out SP for their communal tricks. The party might have allowed the demolition of the wall but as SP ministers stress, who knows when what might have happened if they had not handled the situation with such finesse and alacrity by punishing Nagpal. A communal riot can be such an unpredictable thing. Villagers who opposed the wall might have fallen in love with it. They might forget it was a wall and see it, as the SP saw it, as a mosque.  Communal harmony would have been disturbed between the wall lovers and the wall haters. This situation needed to be nipped in the bud especially when accompanied by an officer with an unaccommodating attitude towards sand mining.

To cap it all, the Central government, who like the bureaucrats had taken to silence,  found its voice.  It now had the temerity to ask SP for an explanation. So, what could SP do but not blackmail. The Food Security Bill was such a paltry thing compared to the brickbats SP had been getting over Nagpal’s suspension.  Congress and its buddies at the UPA, with as sterling a reputation as SP, could now decide whether they would like to gamble on their Below Poverty Line-votebank assuring Food Security Bill (given that  the 2014 elections are round the corner) or pin down SP with the juiciest political controversy du jour.

With the blessings of proud papa Mulayam, Akhilesh dug in his heels, sandbagged the opposition and gagged the public servants. If democracy means playing to the lowest common denominator, then  SP has the game in the bag. Even if they did allow illegal sand mining to take place, even if they did implicate a young and upright officer on the false charge of demolishing a wall, a.k.a. a mosque , even if they did illegally construct the said wall/mosque, even if they did accuse Nagpal of inciting communal tensions while raising the communal issue themselves…well even if they did all of this, and this is a big EVEN, then, I am sure, Akhilesh will listen to his inner voice (that might  sound like Shakespeare but with an Indian accent) muttering, “Conscience doth makes cowards of us all”.

So, to quell the callow voice of conscience and continue with the argument, how can we believe what an intelligence report says or what the media says or what the villagers who witnessed the demolition say? After all, when SP speaks, it speaks from the high-ground of  being, as its name suggests, “The Party of the People”. When Akhilesh lectures the class of IAS officers on doing their duty, his message is plain and simple: “To serve the public is to serve me.”

P.S. : To the detractors of SP out there, cease and desist in your vituperation. It, my dear readers, will be of no use. Given the communication skills of  SP, they will gladly agree with you and take “UP Yours, Mr. Yadav” to mean “UP is Yours, Mr. Yadav”.

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