Lucknow Gup: The Sants Go Marching In
The week in UP politics
Today the capital city of Uttar Pradesh looks more beautiful than a bride. The city has been twinkling ever since it was decked up with a thousand and one lights on March 10 after the Bharatiya Janata Party won 255 seats in the 403-member UP Legislative Assembly.
Hundreds of road crossings have been swept clean and decorated. The route from the airport to the stadium and from the stadium to the BJP state headquarters is lined with flowerpots and bright lights.
The presence of dozens of head priests of various religious institutions and temple representatives in their swirling robes give the town a saffron look.
The occasion is the swearing-in ceremony of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, to be held at 16 hours today at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Stadium in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and president JP Nadda.
The festivities also flag off the BJP campaign for the 2024 general election.
On Thursday Adityanath was unanimously chosen leader of the BJP legislature party in UP in the presence of Shah. He visited the Raj Bhawan to meet Governor Anandiben Patel to stake his claim to form the government.
Invitees are still pouring into the city including BJP workers, industrialists and leaders of opposition parties to witness the ceremony at the international cricket stadium that is able to accommodate 70,000 people.
This is the first time in nearly three decades in UP that the same chief minister is expected to continue as head of government for a second term. Some 50 ministers will also take an oath of office. The cabinet has been carefully chosen to represent the interest of all those caste communities that have voted for the BJP, and can be lured into voting for the same party in 2024. That is why it took 15 days after the election results were announced on March 10 to stitch together a cabinet that is seen to reflect the pride and interest of all castes.
The exercise is to avoid complaints like this one:
vote humara raj tumhara nahin chalega
We vote and you rule - won’t fly
And to show instead that all those who voted for the BJP are sharing power with the government:
jiska vote uska raj
My vote, my government
Many women and younger politicians are expected to get ministerial responsibilities. There is a lot of speculation over who will get what ministry but it is wiser not to guess. It will be known later what surprises the BJP has in store for the world.
Amongst all those expected to be part of the new council of ministers like Baby Rani Maurya, AK Sharma, Sanjay Nishad, Aparna Yadav and Pankaj Singh, Keshav Prasad Maurya is most likely to return as a deputy CM.
Whispers in the corridors of power reveal that the CM is not in favour of any deputy. It is Delhi that would like to see at least one, if not two or even three deputy CMs in Uttar Pradesh.
Maurya may have lost the election but within the BJP he remains an important leader of the non-Yadav communities of backward castes. He is a seasoned and loyal member of the party and not likely to be left by the wayside.
Pushkar Singh Dhami was sworn in as chief minister of Uttarakhand a few days ago even though he lost the election. Likewise Maurya too is expected to play an important role in the new government of Yogi Adityanath. He is close to Narendra Modi and to Amit Shah. There is another reason why Maurya needs power in UP despite his defeat at the polls. It is because Delhi can trust him to keep an eye on the Yogi just in case the CM decides one day that his boots are too small.
However Adityanath too has learnt many a lesson in his five years in office. It is said that the usually stubborn Chief is ready to make many more compromises and adjustments this time round, if only to make sure that the BJP remains in power.
There is a kind of joy all over the Samajwadi Party ever since party chief Akhilesh Yadav announced that he will retain his newly won seat in the UP Assembly. After all three crore people have voted for the SP in UP.
Akhilesh Yadav won the Azamgarh Lok Sabha seat in 2019 and after the UP elections he had to decide whether to return to Delhi, or to continue to fight his political battle in Lucknow. That he chose to stay on in Lucknow as leader of the main opposition party has made the SP happy. However Azamgarh has no reason to despair as the plan is to get wife Dimple to contest the Lok Sabha byelection from there.
Today the SP is the main opposition party with 125 seats in the UP Assembly. The biggest test for Akhilesh Yadav is how to respect and accommodate important leaders who allied with the SP in the last election, and to make all allies his long term partners in a united struggle for social justice in Uttar Pradesh.
There is no news about the role that veteran leader Shivpal Yadav will have in future. Unlike Akhilesh who inherited the SP leadership on a platter, Shivpal Yadav has spent years in building the SP along with founding father Mulayam Singh from scratch. Shivpal Yadav has suffered as he put the SP together brick by brick. He cycled miles on end to win over the heart of the people. Now he heads his own party the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Progressive Socialist Party) that is part of the SP alliance. To use his organisational skills to strengthen the SP is the need of the hour.
Then there is the case of motor mouth Azam Khan. The poetry spouting former minister is known for making outrageous comments that have embarrassed the SP in the past.
Azam Khan is in jail but he has won the UP Assembly seat from Rampur and has resigned from his seat in the Lok Sabha. However one wrong word from Azam Khan today will be enough fodder for the godi media to hound Akhilesh Yadav in an attempt to ruin his reputation.