As we wait for the trends to settle for the day and the final seat counts for each party, the biggest truth to emerge is that BJP+ is going to be the largest party in Uttar Pradesh with Yogi Adityanath back at the helm. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s performance in Uttar Pradesh is nothing but historic! It is the first time that a sitting chief minister in the state has won the mandate again and that too with such a thumping majority. While 2017 had a polarisation factor because of the Muzaffarnagar riots, 2022 had none. What explains this absolutely stunning victory of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh? One clear answer that I got from the people I spoke to on the ground was — Law and Order.
It wasn’t development, it wasn’t jobs, it wasn’t multiple beneficiary schemes for the underprivileged but something very simple and basic, such as law and order. The people of Uttar Pradesh have been historically so starved for a basic sense of safety and security that their poll choice became a reflection of their happiness with what Yogi Adityanath has delivered in his last five years in power. Old-timers would recall how the UP Janta had rewarded even Mayawati for her “Chadh Gundan Ki Chhati Par, Mohar Lagao Hathi Par” election campaign.
In 2017, when Yogi won the mandate for the first time, his task was cut out. Take law and order seriously and deliver the results on a war footing. The impact was quick. A poll conducted that very year ranked the BJP government as number 1 followed by the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party for their record on law and order. I remember visiting Lucknow for a conference in October 2017 and the city didn’t look like anything that I remember from my childhood. There was a police vehicle patrolling at critical hours every day and any kind of assistance was just a phone call away. My experience is not solitary.
People from the business communities in financial centers such as Agra industrial area, Sahibabad industrial area, Greater Noida etc. can’t stop gushing about how effective police action has been in these places. One may actually see the beat officer patrolling the area on foot during the factory timings when labourers especially women are leaving for the day after their shift. Similarly, the crackdown on ‘land mafia’ has improved ease of doing business in the state as businessmen can invest in land for future development while they secure capital with a sense of peace.
It may sound ridiculous to many living in urban centers, but for women and the elderly in Uttar Pradesh, something as basic as going on a morning walk was unimaginable. Also, eve-teasing was so rampant that many women had to withdraw admission from colleges and schools to save themselves from harassment. Diksha Upadhyay (first name changed on request) recalled how she was almost attacked with acid during the SP rule. But the formation of much controversial “Anti-Romeo Squads” has helped women like her venture out from the house once again.
If we look at the statistics, they confirm what the anecdotal evidence is telling us about massively improved law and order in UP. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a steep decline in serious crimes such as rapes (-43 per cent), murders (-23 per cent) and abductions (19 per cent) has been registered in UP ever since Yogi came to power. There has been visible action against history-sheeters such as Atique Ahmed, Mukhtar Ansari and Vikas Dubey. In the times of Shaheen Bagh and Kisan Andolan that turned out to be ‘sites of crimes’ and public nuisance later, Yogi’s UP Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Ordinance was a life-saver for many. Before the pandemic, UP’s crime rate against women at 55.4 cases per one lakh was lower than Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan and even Kerala. Yogi’s crackdown on miscreants in UP has benefitted even the nearby states. For instance, the closing down of 30-year-old Sotiganj illegal car parts market in Meerut has impacted the vehicle theft nexus in the entire Delhi-Haryana-Punjab-UP belt.
Multiple women I spoke to had brimming smiles over the sense of security and relief that “baba ji” has afforded to them. This is in clear contrast to the Samajwadi rule when to get an FIR registered against a Samajwadi Party minister Gayatri Prajapati for gangrape, a woman had to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country. Political interference was so widespread that no less than 10 DGPs were changed during Akhilesh rule. Locals recall how the Yadav caste dominated field postings such as SHO, Station Officer and Circle Officer.
In a clear break from the times of ‘caste-equations’, the BJP was so confident about its governance model that it fought 2022 elections on the plank of “Nationalism, Development, Good Law and Order”. This forced the opposition to take law and order in their own poll pitches seriously with prime-time debates dominating law and order issues and deliverables in the run up to the polls.
Law and order is a highly under-rated factor in election analysis in India. World over, law and order is ranked higher than many other issues such as employment, development etc. while exercising political choice. Nearby Bangladesh is a good example where Sheikh Hasina’s crackdown on mischievous elements helped her secure a second-term in power. But we in India don’t appreciate the impact that law and order has on economic development. Both are directly related to each other. The sense of security and safety Yogi’s five-year rule has instilled among women, businessmen, youth, elderly has translated into the massive victory that he has sealed today.
The author is a PhD in International Relations from the Department of International Relations, South Asian University. Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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