After the tragedy at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and two of his cabinet colleagues faced flak for poor governance and inexperience in crisis management.
Why did the government wait for 24 hours to come up with a response when even a simple one-line sentence expressing grief at the loss of lives and a promise of thorough investigation could have saved it from embarrassment? Tasked with defending the party and the government, even the Bharatiya Janata Party’s spokespersons did not have an answer.
The episode gave some ministers, including a Deputy Chief Minister, reason to criticise the Chief Minister. Asked by a journalist what he felt about Adityanath’s handling of the crisis, the Deputy Chief Minister said, “Ab kya kahen… seekh jaaenge (what to say... he will learn).”
Another minister said, “Wo samajhte hain ki unhe sab aataa hai (he thinks he knows everything).”
A senior bureaucrat said some party leaders disliked the Chief Minister’s style of working because he was “incorruptible” and did not encourage the “transfer-posting culture”. Party workers argue that this was creating troubles given that they had to return some favours to those who voted them to power.
Each of the two Deputy Chief Ministers – Public Works Department (PWD) minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and Higher Education minister Dinesh Sharma – coveted the Chief Minister’s office. Maurya felt he deserved the post since he had led the party to victory in Uttar Pradesh as the chief of its state unit. The party also gave him credit for his role, although party stalwarts Narendra Modi and Amit Shah were the ones who devised the winning strategy, of which Maurya was a small part.
In a veiled attack on Adityanath and his Hindu Yuva Vahini, Maurya had once remarked that the government was giving preference to “outsiders” over party workers. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had to step in to resolve the issue. Subsequently, the Vahini had to cut down on its activities.
Sharma, despite his forgettable stint as Lucknow’s mayor, was hopeful of becoming the chief minister because of his closeness with the RSS and having been in-charge of the BJP in Gujarat. In the end, he ended up as a deputy to Adityanath.
Sharma’s first failure lay in continuing with an Indian Administrative Service officer on a key post for a long time despite the latter’s corrupt background.
It is in the Information Technology sector though, a department headed by Sharma, that UP, and especially Lucknow, have had some problems recently. When Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) decided to wind up its operations in Lucknow, the worried employees approached the Chief Minister. It was only after a TCS team met the Chief Minister on 11 August that the principal secretary, IT, could put out a statement which said that the company was “not shifting Lucknow operations for now”.
A former professor of Lucknow University said that at a co-ordination meeting, the Sangh’s representatives expressed disappointment over Sharma’s functioning.
“What is Sharma’s contribution?” he asked and said that the education minister had not made any notable contributions as a minister. He does not even have a following among Brahmins (his own caste), the professor said. He did not say if Maurya’s performance was found unsatisfactory.
Maurya let the government down after the Chief Minister set a deadline for fixing all the potholes across the state. The PWD minister’s failure saw brickbats being hurled at Adityanath for making promises which were difficult to keep. Sharma too hasn’t shown any considerable action in fixing the problems plaguing higher education in the state.
Although both Maurya and Sharma lacked administrative experience, they were appointed after Adityanath said he wanted two deputies to “assist (him) in the gigantic task”.
One indication of the popularity which Maurya and Sharma enjoy as Deputy Chief Ministers could be that they were likely to take the legislative council route for membership of the Uttar Pradesh assembly. Both Sharma and Maurya have to be elected as members of the assembly within six months of being sworn in as ministers. Maurya is currently a member of Lok Sabha from Phulpur, and Sharma is the Mayor of Lucknow.
Notwithstanding sarsanghchalak Prabhu Narain asking the Yogi government to atone for the Gorakhpur tragedy and murmurs of disapproval from colleagues, Adityanath has nothing to worry as the Sangh has been fully supportive of the Chief Minister.
Atul Chandra is former Resident Editor, The Times of India, Lucknow. He has written extensively on politics in Uttar Pradesh.
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