In 70 years, India has emerged successfully as the world’s largest and youngest democracy. It also happens to be world’s fastest growing economy.
Uttar Pradesh, the ancient, resourceful and most populous, is also one of the most politically active states. Lying across the Ganga-Yamuna’s fertile plains, Uttar Pradesh has been the centre of ancient civilisations from the Mauryan, Kushanas and Gupta empires to the medieval age Mughal empire.
Uttar Pradesh fought back imperialism of the British Raj right from 1857 rebellion. With the Cawnpore Rebellion, Meerut Rebellion to active participation in Non-Cooperation and Quit India Movement, the state contributed to the nation’s freedom struggle.
The land has nurtured Indian culture and has been a vital centre for education, learning, prosperity, cultural exchange, unity, social and political activities. It is well known that most Prime Ministers of Sovereign India have come from Uttar Pradesh.
Being one of the most politically active states, Uttar Pradesh has been the ground for various social and political movements. It has been a birthplace of several political parties. However, it has turned into a victim of politics of coalition and vote bank politics lately. Because of the sorry state of politics in Uttar Pradesh, development of the state has taken a backseat.
Primarily, an agrarian state, this Hindi-heartland is a land of unlimited potentials left unutilised. About 30% of the population still lives below poverty line, and the migration rate in the state is rapidly increasing.
The rate of murder, dacoity, rape, theft, kidnapping, etc. is on the rise (including cases registered under IPC and SLL). The Indian growth has risen to 7% (GDP Annual Growth Rate). Other states have also climbed the ladder of development, such as Madhya Pradesh with 9-10%, Haryana with 7-8%, Gujarat with 8-9%, but UP still stands low at a mere 4-5% (GSDP Growth Rate at Constant Prices 2004-05).
The state started experiencing political unrest and rift within the state leadership in the Congress party after the death of GB Pant. First, President’s Rule was imposed in the state in 1968 when the Fouth Assembly under Bharatiya Kranti Dal led by Chaudhary Charan Singh dissolved.
The series of political turmoil, intra-party and inter-party clashes led to kind of political instability in the state which gradually evolved into coalition politics. After the Emergency, Uttar Pradesh became a ground for political movements, and several anti-Congress leaders, socialist leaders, other parties under the flag of Janata Party and later Janata Dal rose to power.
With the clash of ideology between several leaders, political stability was not possible. Therefore, several factions broke out of at both national and regional levels.
This was when the politics of coalition became a salient feature of political equations in India. Uttar Pradesh, being a victim of opportunism in coalition politics, witnessed the rise and fall of leaders, sectarian ideologies, rise of vote bank and appeasement politics.
Parties came to power focusing specifically on pockets of votes. The state became a battlefield for political power, and the population was divided into vote-banks. Political turmoils continued for few decades, and none of the chief ministers could complete the tenure of five years in the state till 2007.
Meanwhile, the vote banks in the state became so defined that every child born in most communities knew their family’s or eventually, its political affiliations since childhood.
Political parties that came to power appeasing a particular section of the population, treated as a vote bank, gave undue patronage and promised sops openly in public rallies. The saddest part is that with all that appeasement and favouritism and nepotism, development of the state remained compromised.
Even for that matter, the appeased communities or the vote banks remained backward. Corruption, illegal activities, organised crime kept rising. So much so, that the state earned fame for having worst law and order situation, which discouraged investment and eventually adding to the dearth of opportunities. In short, the state remained a victim of divisive appeasement politics.
The backwardness harnessed and promoted so well in the state in past two decades have made people too dependent on the government.
The focus was not on giving employment but distributing employment allowances. The parties focused not on power generation but load-cutting. The state suffers poor education standards, and there is a lack of job opportunities. The state contributes to agricultural production largely, but farmers here live in adversities.
Uttar Pradesh happens to be a state whose former chief minister, representing a marginalised community, sends a private jet to get her sandals. The current chief minister distributes laptops to students in villages devoid of power and says that mobiles are used only for music and movies. It is the state where with each election, the specific communities are assured employment, and after subsequent elections, they are replaced by some other community.
It is the state where katiyabaaz (electricity thieves) are protected, and power-cuts manage demand for power. It sounds funny! Populism, used to win elections and run government to keep the vote-bank loyal, has marred the scope of developmental aspirations of the state. Democracy is so misused and manipulated in the state that the development agenda now has taken a back seat.
After 2014, fighting elections with development and weeding out corruption has become a poll plank in a state where development still means something as basic as getting an electricity connection, gas connection, connecting villages to roads.
People’s aspirations cannot be misled by harping on these basics even after 70 years of independence. Real development is almost missing from the rhetoric of Assembly election.
The narrative of development in Uttar Pradesh in the 2017 Assembly elections cannot be “something is better than nothing”. The leaders cannot mislead people to overlook corruption, loss of sectarian and appeasement politics.
The Assembly Elections of 2017 in Uttar Pradesh are not just an opportunity to let the leaders know that they cannot be ‘agents’ of the communities. These elections in Uttar Pradesh need to resonate that politics cannot divide and rule, and people are not vote-banks. Every community desires for good-governance, a transparent and just system that is devoid of corruption, favouritism and nepotism. Also, these elections should not lead to another coalition fiasco and political instability. Uttar Pradesh has had enough of opportunism based vote-bank politics.