Monks, like saints, should always be judged guilty until they are proven innocent. Yogi Adityanath
is not an ordinary monk. He is the mahant, or the head, of the influential Gorakhdham Peeth in Gorakhpur, as well as the chief political executive of the country’s most populous state. That is why he needs to prove much more than his peers in politics.
On March 19, 2017, he became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in a highly unusual choice, following a highly unusual mandate in favour of the BJP. At the halfway mark, he presents a curious picture of half accomplishments and half letdowns. When he took charge, he was largely known as a rabble-rouser with little experience of administration. In Gorakhpur, which he represented in the Lok Sabha for five consecutive terms, he came across as an aggressive religious leader who took on the dreaded underworld of eastern UP. In the process, he emerged as the patron of a powerful outfit — Hindu Yuva Vahini. The task cut out for him was to reinvent his image and deliver on people’s aspirations.
During the two-and-a-half years, he has been evolving as an unconventional administrator. He has also emerged as an enigma that is not easy to unravel.
For instance, the manner in which he has been firing officials in a fit of rage — an attribute that goes against the grain of a matured and seasoned administrator. Is he to be blamed for his shortcut solutions? If one knows the history of the way the UP government has been run, Yogi is not as guilty as charged. He has certainly introduced a cultural difference to the office of the chief minister. For the past two decades, the official residence of the UP chief minister on Kalidas Marg was the hub of dubious powerbrokers. In the successive regimes of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, the state witnessed the worst kind of organised loot by a compact of politicians, bureaucrats, and affluent middlemen camouflaged as industrialists and real-estate developers.
If you have any doubt, just look at the size of scandals in the government schemes like the National
Rural Health Mission (NRHM), or the real estate in Noida during the previous regimes. In all of them, the alleged involvement of the chief minister’s office was too brazen to be ignored by investigative agencies. Yogi has not only purged the office of the dubious past but also taken extreme caution to make it inaccessible to dubious characters.
However, his cautious approach is proving to impede conducting statecraft. Officials working with him admit that he is so careful of the image that he would rather keep postponing crucial decisions.
Taking a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pledge to make India a $5-trillion economy, Yogi, too, has promised to make Uttar Pradesh a $1-trillion economy in five years.
There is, of course, nothing wrong in dreaming big, but Yogi appears to be clueless about the road map to make this dream a reality. His attempts to attract industry and investment to Uttar Pradesh, so far, have not borne fruits. In rural parts of Uttar Pradesh, the roads which Yogi had promised to make free of potholes are still in a state of disrepair. Even in the prime minister’s constituency of Varanasi, streets are littered with garbage.
While he has kept his integrity intact, Yogi is yet to show signs of taking effective steps to reduce corruption down the line. Last week, a frustrated contractor whose bills were not cleared by the PWD engineer shot himself at the engineer’s office.
Perhaps, Yogi inadvertently injected a touch of masculinity in his government by his bravado on the law and order front and his protestation of zero-tolerance for corruption. Though he made all the right noises, he is not able to create or strengthen an institutional framework to align his government’s intentions with the reality of public welfare. In that case, his obsession with law and order at the exclusion of issues of development or ease of living shows that he is yet to come to terms with the complexity of governance.
Though an unconventional politician himself, Yogi seems to be largely guided by impulses which are archaic and feudal. As mahant of Gorakhdham Peeth, he could earn unreserved praise from followers for his actions. But as chief political executive of the country’s biggest state, he is far from an astute and able administrator. The state bureaucracy, notorious for leading their political bosses down the garden path, has substantially succeeded in misleading Yogi. Perhaps he needs more time to fully grasp the complexity of governance.