It is rare for chief ministers of states in India to publicly comment on development issues in states other than their own. The unwritten law of civility in these matters tends to be broken only in the silly season – when elections are around the corner.
The chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath of the BJP and Siddaramaiah of the Congress in poll-bound Karnataka, have been engaged in a war on social media over the last week about the wonders of development in their own states and the lack of it in the other.
The war of words both online and offline was triggered by comments made by Adityanath about Siddaramaiah at pre-election rallies for the BJP in Karnataka in the past month.
First up, the comparisons between the Yogi Adityanath government and Siddaramaiah government are specious because the UP government led by Yogi is barely nine months old and the Karnataka government led by Siddaramaiah is at the end of it’s five year term. Comparing the development in the two states in effect is like comparing potatoes with oranges.
One of the grounds of contention is the law and order situation in the two states. The Congress party in Karnataka has referred to the poor track record for law and order in UP while Yogi has claimed to have brought things under control. He has alleged that the law and order situation is deteriorating in Karnataka.
In highlighting the poor law and order track record in UP, the Congress is effectively criticizing Yogi’s predecessors and not Yogi’s tenure itself which is yet to be tried and tested in its full measure.
Also, it is the convention in politics, in the first year after a government comes to power, for the opposition to lie low and desist from organizing big protests and rallies that create law and order problems.
Yogi’s reference to the law and order situation in Karnataka is also specious. His allegations that law and order has deteriorated is largely restricted to the deaths of activists of right wing groups in Karnataka in the last five years.
Yogi is carrying on with a canard the BJP is fanning in Karnataka , claiming that 21 right wing activists have been killed during the Congress tenure on account of it having a soft corner for Muslims.
The truth, however, is that in every case where right wing activists have been killed the state police has managed to identify the killers and bring them to book. In the case of Rudresh, an RSS worker in Bengaluru who was murdered by activists of the pro Muslim Popular Front of India, the Congress government has handed over investigations to the NIA, at the instance of the BJP, after identifying and arresting the killers.
A close look at the list of crimes in Karnataka reveals that several people have been killed by right wing activists, but the BJP rarely brings this up, leave alone rapping it for it failure to find the killers of people like the rationalist M M Kalburgi.
The BJP in Karnataka, on account of its own spurious record of corruption while in power between 2008-2013, has not effectively highlighted the corruption issue despite Yogi’s assertions that the state is merely an ATM for the Congress party.
On the issue of development, Yogi has claimed to have introduced many pro-people schemes in UP like free cycles for school children and skill development training for youths. Many of these schemes are also being implemented in Karnataka.
One of the key grouses that Yogi has voiced against Siddaramaiah is over the issue of cow slaughter. He has questioned the Karnataka chief minister’s Hindu credentials over the reversal of a ban on cow slaughter.
Siddaramaiah has stated that as a man linked to the agrarian economy of the country he perfectly understands the value of the cow in the cycle of rural life, unlike Yogi and Co who view it through a radical Hindutva value scheme.
There is no doubt that states in India need to compete with each other for the overall development of the country. Constructive criticism and learning from the success stories of each other would serve the purpose far better than wildly swishing in the dark in the silly season.