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Uttar Pradesh bypolls results: It's development all the way

Indian electorate wants development and it is about time political parties understand that.

twitter-logo Shweta Punj        Last Updated: September 17, 2014  | 11:15 IST
Samajwadi Party (SP) workers celebrate to mark the party's victory in the bypolls in Allahabad on Tuesday. Photo: PTI

Shweta Punj
About four months ago, my cab driver in Lucknow seemed rather miffed about the delay caused by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's entourage.

"This happens at least five times a day (traffic is blocked for VIP movement)," he said, with much disappointment as he spoke of the reasons why a youth leader was voted to power in the first place. "Delhi mein Manmohan hai, aur yahan Akhileshji (there is Manmohan Singh in Delhi and Akhilesh in Lucknow)," he said, adding that the CM rarely does anything without consulting his father, the Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav who controls his son much like the Gandhis controlled the then prime minister.

Expectations were high from the junior Yadav, who won the election on the promise of change from the old way of doing things and development. There was a sense of despondency that had set in under the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party government and the foreign-educated Akhilesh managed to shake off some of that inertia.

But, the driver added, the Yadavs make Mayawati look good, as we drove past mammoth sandstone statues of elephants that dot the capital of India's largest state by population.

Almost unanimously, everyone I spoke with echoed their disappointment with the SP government. There were complaints of corruption, crony capitalism, no power, poor roads, poor law and order .

Essentially, there was a cry for good governance and development, and with Narendra Modi steering a high-decibel development campaign, he seemed to many a messiah of hope. So what changed in the four months since?

The BJP has been a nationalistic party, which in the 2014 elections tried its best to be heard espousing the cause of development. This is what won the party 71 of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections.

Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani spoke about bringing electricity and jobs to Amethi and turning Amethi around like Modi had worked his magic on Gujarat, as she campaigned relentlessly, and eventually did manage to give Rahul Gandhi a tough fight. "Sadak sab ke liye banegi (the road will be built for everyone)," she had said while addressing a group of Muslim women.

Almost all BJP candidates campaigned with Modi's slogan for development and won on the hope and promise of a better life for all its citizens. Because Indians were tired of politics of pandering and appeasement, and a change of guard promised solutions to issues that affected them every day, until 'Love Jihad' surfaced and the conversation changed.

The BJP picked the polarising Yogi Adityanath as its campaign planner - confirming the worst fears of its critics that the party associated with hardline Hindutva will resurface, and this happened much sooner than expected. The five-time MP from Gorakhpur is known for making communal speeches and his elevation perhaps came as an encouragement to the fringe elements who have been strong proponents of majoritarianism.

The rise of majoritarianism has been one of the greater worries that have come with the ascent of the BJP, and the elevation of those who have been cited for propagating such views has been disconcerting. Keeping such tendencies and voices under check has been one of Modi's key failings, and letting them grow unabated is slowly eclipsing the development agenda the party wants to be identified with.

The BJP losing nine of 12 seats in bypolls to Assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh is a wake-up call, which hopefully those who need to listen, will.

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