Vikas Dubey's encounter gives SP, BSP, Congress ammo to attack Adityanath

Vikas Dubey was killed by the police a week after he and his gang allegedly killed 8 cops.
The Opposition in Uttar Pradesh inhabits two spheres: The virtual and the real. The two worlds rarely intersect because the aggression displayed on Twitter and in Facebook posts hardly translates into action on the ground, while the rare street protests and demonstrations theme micro issues that never figure on social media. “What can we do when a pandemic is raging on and we are told to stay indoors?” asked Anand Bhadauria, a Samajwadi Party (SP) legislative council member, who is part of party President Akhilesh Yadav’s core political team.

The only time when the SP recovered its form was about 10 days ago. Its activists congregated at Lucknow’s arterial Hazratganj to protest the Yogi Adityanath government’s “failures” on various fronts, including law and order. The city’s political observers pointed out by the SP’s standards, the demonstration lacked bite because Pooja Yadav, a local student leader and spearhead of such shows, took a backseat after her several arrests in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s regime.

Even in the pre-pandemic period, the Opposition, comprising the SP, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress, was not exactly up and about. “Shell-shocked by the defeat in the (2017) Assembly and (2019) Lok Sabha polls, the Opposition never got its act together,” said a BSP source. 

The appointment of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as Congress general secretary in charge of UP signalled a change not just in the Congress but also the Opposition because she never passed up any chance to attack the Adityanath dispensation on social media and occasionally on the ground. 

Following Vikas Dubey’s encounter, social media is replete with posts suggesting the next battle in UP will be waged between the “descendants of Parushurama” and the “killer Rajputs” Photo: PTI

The gunning down of Vikas Yadav, Kanpur’s felon, by the state police in an “encounter” executed in questionable circumstances, has apparently re-ignited the Opposition. Akhilesh, a major presence on Twitter despite adhering to the politically straight and narrow on the day’s issues, became belligerent. He chastised the government for allowing Dubey to shoot eight cops and called it the “most shameful incident in criminal history”. On July 10, after Dubey’s “encounter” that was reportedly preceded by his attempt to escape when a car in the police convoy had overturned, Akhilesh tweeted: “If the car hadn’t turned turtle, secrets would have tumbled out and the government might have capsized.” It was the first insinuation that Dubey had high-level connections whose reputations he would have compromised had he squealed in custody.

“The encounter gave us a fillip,” said Sanjay Lathar, a Jat leader in the SP. “We decided to have sit-ins at district headquarters against the government’s dictatorial ways and its bad law and order management on the 22nd of every month.” Sunil Singh Yadav, a member of the SP’s state executive, said: “There’s a time to be confrontational and that has arrived.” The state votes in early 2022 but the political ambience gets intense when the jousts begin a year ahead.

The biggest challenge before the Opposition is breaching the pan-Hindu vote bank the BJP constructed before 2014. It includes nearly every caste and sub-castes, barring historically committed sections, such as the Yadav (largely with the SP), the Jatav (with the BSP), and the Muslims (who coalesce around the party/coalition best placed to defeat the BJP). “The BJP polarises the polity along Hindu-Muslim lines. Other issues recede into the background. When the elections come, Babaji (Adityanath) will do the round of temples and win over the hearts of the people upset with him now,” said Santosh Yadav Sunny, an SP MLA from Gorakhpur.

Dubey’s execution gave the Opposition an opening, which the BSP and the Congress are trying to exploit. That is in the perceived “persecution” of the Brahmins in the regime of Adityanath, a Rajput, accused of pandering to his caste’s interests. 

Dubey was a Brahmin. Although no community leader openly opposed his killing, social media is replete with posts suggesting that the next battle in UP will be waged between the “descendants of Parushurama” and the “killer Rajputs” because oddly Dubey suddenly personifies the Brahmins. Mayawati, the BSP leader who avoided criticising the government, noted in a tweet: “The UP government shouldn’t do anything because of which the Brahmin community is terrorised.” “In 2007, we brought Brahmins on our side. We can do it again if we project ourselves as a winner and shed the notion that we are the BJP’s B-team,” a BSP source said.

Jitin Prasada, a former Congress MP and minister, recently launched the Brahmin Chetna Parishad, although it’s unclear if it is a party project. “Besides the targeted killing of Brahmins, there’s discrimination in every nook and corner. Brahmins are not heard in police thanas,” alleged Prasada.

A Lucknow political observer pointed out, the problem is the politicians playing the “Brahmin card” have no concrete evidence to buttress their charge of “discrimination”, except for citing stray murders. On the other hand, the upper caste representation in the UP legislature increased from 32.7 in 2012 to 44.4 per cent in 2017. The BJP gave roughly half its tickets to savarna candidates. Of the 48 ministers in Adityanath’s government, 28 are from the upper castes, as against 19 from the backward castes, and seven from the scheduled castes. Of the 28, eight each are Brahmins and Rajputs. These are hard facts for which the Opposition has no answers.

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