When Yogi Adityanath became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in March 2017, he probably had the strongest political CV a new CM could have in India. He had been a five-time Member of Parliament, with an outstanding parliamentary record on attendance, number of questions asked, number of debates participated in, and number of private member bills presented.
He was young (44, when he took over), dynamic, and a popular leader. Besides, Adityanath had a two-decade-long experience in governance and administration, since he managed nearly four dozen educational, health and spiritual institutions of the Gorakhnath Math. But many political pundits, thanks to their intrinsic hatred towards the saffron attire, failed to appreciate this strong CV.
Adityanath’s work in the last 30 months has silenced many such critics. He spent the initial months of 2017 improving the state’s governance, which was marred by corruption and nepotism. It started with ensuring that ministers and officers reached their offices on time, and keeping government offices free of paan-stains. Once that was achieved, he focused on a month-long training of ministers about government departments.
Uttar Pradesh, as Adityanath inherited it, suffered from poor law and order, poor electricity supply, bad roads, and bad air connectivity. These problems led to limited investments in the state, which in turn led to unemployment and mass migration to other industrialised states. The CM took the challenge head-on.
The state had three lakh sanctioned police posts, but, for the last two decades, only one-and-half lakh police personal had been commissioned. Many recruitment drives by the previous Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party governments ended up in courts, owing to massive irregularities in the recruitment process. In the last two-and-half years, the Yogi government has recruited over 75,000 police personnel based on merit, and more than 50,000 recruitments are in progress.
There has been a massive crackdown on history sheeters, who received political patronage over decades. In addition, the UP government focused on police modernisation, improving their training facilities, strengthening the Provincial Armed Constabulary companies, and increasing the number of women police personnel to create a safe environment in the state.
As far as electric supply is concerned, the government metered the unmetered connections; provided more than one crore new connections; cracked down on power theft; rationalised tariffs; and ensured 24-hour electricity at the district headquarters, 20 hours at tehsils and, at least, 18 hours in villages.
This was a tectonic shift for citizens and the industrial sectors, who were accustomed to checking rosters to check which VIP districts would get power. More than one lakh km of roads have been made pothole-free, and four expressways — Poorvanchal, Bundelkhand, Gorakhpur Link Expressway and Ganga Expressway — are at different stages of planning and completion. Today, eight airports are fully functional, and 11 new ones are under construction. The construction of the much-awaited Jewar International airport has finally started.
Improved law and order, enhanced electricity supply, and better road and air connectivity have brought back investor confidence in Uttar Pradesh. Owing to Adityanath’s leadership and commitment to delivery, more than ~5 trillion worth of investment was promised at the very first investment summit, after the government came to power. These were not hollow promises, as projects worth ~2 trillion have already got off the ground.
Finally, basic governance is back in UP. I will illustrate it with two examples. Yogi Adityanath is an old champion of the eradication of Japanese Encephalitis Syndrome (JES) in the eastern parts of the state. He has raised JES-related questions in Parliament. When Adityanath was an MP, he brought several central schemes to the state to combat JES. But many of them were scuttled by the previous governments. Now, as CM, Adityanath has launched the Dastak Campaign in the 38 JES-affected districts of UP, for complete immunisation and social behaviour change programmes for better hygiene. The United Nations Children’s Fund has lauded the UP government for successfully immunising all children against Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. And as a result, JES deaths have been reduced by 65% in the state.
Over the years, UP had also become a hub for the exam cheating mafia. The government has cracked down on the system using special task forces, extensive use of CCTV cameras, and removing blacklisted exam centres. As a result, lakhs of such dubious students are not enrolling in Uttar Pradesh anymore.
Adityanath and his government’s commitment to delivery and governance are evident. The state has a long history of low-governance capacity. But it is changing fast. UP, which was always mocked for its lawlessness, lethargy and lack of governance, is today applauded even by detractors for being one of the best states to implement central schemes, for organising one of the grandest and cleanest Kumbh Melas, brilliantly hosting thousands of Non-Resident Indians at Kashi for the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, and for a grand deepotsava with South Korea’s first lady at Ayodhya.
Some political analysts and commentators may differ, but the people of the state have given their approval ratings for Adityanath’s work, through the massive vote share and seats for the BJP in the 2019 general elections elections, despite a deadly caste combination put up by the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
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