Uttar Pradesh government is inviting applications from ‘creative agencies’ to boost the image of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath but the task seems onerous given the absence of governance, the hate and divisiveness that has spread through the state, and his own inability to discard confrontation for persuasion. The proposal requires the applicants to deposit Rs 50 lakhs as earnest money, an indication that the contract will be huge with the focus on propagating Adityanath’s “vision” through media and other campaigns in India as well as abroad.
The defeat in the two Lok Sabha bypolls Phulpur and more importantly for the CM, his home constituency Gorakhpur has acted as a wake up call. This along with the crimes against women and Dalits, the harassment of Muslims that has take a virulent form, and major accidents such as the deaths of 60 children in a Gorakhpur hospital and now the school bus accident at Kushinagar has taken a major toll on the image of the government. Adityanath’s confrontationist personality has been unable to stem the gap, with doctors being jailed for an essentially official lapse in the hospital tragedy in Gorakhpur and now again in Kushinagar where he took the mike to threaten protesters agitated about the death of 13 children killed when a train rammed into their school van.
“Stop this nautanki” shouted the Chief Minister as a huge crowd collected to stop him from going to the accident site. Adityanath had visited the hospital but was stopped by the crowds while on his way to the railway crossing where the children had been killed---three from just one family. The protestors were quiet at first, and as a local BJP leader said, they expected the CM to reach out and give them a personal assurance of action, and condolences of sorrow. None of this happened, and instead the police with him tried to create a passage through the swirling crowds. Soon after the crowd started shouting slogans against the state government.
At this point Adityanath took the mike, cautioned the protesters, said it was an incident, and shouted at them to stop the nautanki. This left his own party aghast, with the video now in wide circulation with comments about a Chief Minister who does not care about the people. The most honest and comprehensive report of the CM’s confrontation with his own people is as below:
Adityanath has turned UP into a state of terror, with little to offer by way of governance. The ‘encounter raj’ that he and his state police are so proud of is targeting Dalits, backwards and Muslims with accountability thrown to the winds. Alongside, videos of harassment of the most victimised at the hands of the Chief Ministers Hindu Yuva Vahini, and the state police are flooding the social media with The Citizen unable to verify the venue and the time. However, reports of encounters legitimised by the state government have horrified rights bodies, with petitions being filed against what is popularly known now as the ‘encounter regime.’
Officials have been suspended for the school bus accident but clearly the people were not satisfied. Kushinagar residents spoke of the complete absence of law and order, of unmanned crossings, and of poor educational facilities that made their children vulnerable. As a stringer reporting from the site told The Citizen, the protesters were clear that just compensation or suspension was not going to be enough, and the government would have to take comprehensive measures to stem the tide. “We have no government here, we are managing without one,” an elderly villager was quoted as saying.
A post accompanying a video clip of Adityanath’s message to the protesters asked whether it was right for a CM to speak in this manner to the grieving families and threaten the people. “ Sharmnak (Shameful)” said the comment.
Meanwhile the UP government is working hard to get lift the sagging image of the CM. It has asked the creative agencies to submit proposals to “effectively portray the vision of the Chief Minister.” And gone on to say that “the (UP Information and Public Relations) department would like to release campaigns in the international, national and regionl markets with attractive, eye catching and focused creatives, which effectively portray the vision of the honourable chief minister of Uttar Pradesh” as reported in the Economic Times.
This is the second such effort this year, with the first preceding an investors summit that Adityanath was to preside over. This effort was to clear investor perceptions about UP and sell it as an investment destination. The summit itself was barely publicised so clearly the effort did not deliver in the manner that Adityanath had hoped for.
And as a journalist wag in Lucknow said, “well now lets see how creative the ‘creative agency’ that is finally hired can be! “