Blame it on the soaring mercury or power going to their heads, the saffron brigade in Uttar Pradesh is cutting loose, much to the chagrin of the bureaucracy that is facing the heat of their misconduct.
And so, while it was initially dismissed as the handiwork of fringe elements and overzealous party workers by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the situation now is precarious with many of its lawmakers and ministers involved in such public incidents of high-handedness.
On Sunday, veteran Gorakhpur legislator Radha Mohan Das Agarwal, who is also a confidant of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, not only took on a woman police officer but publicly humiliated her, so much so that the woman in uniform broke down and was seen in TV footage wiping her tears.
Charu Nigam, the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer at the receiving end, tried to explain her position in an altercation over a protest against a liquor shop, but Agarwal asked her to shut up and not make him lose his cool.
Not long ago, Raghav Lakhanpal, the young Lok Sabha MP from Saharanpur, led a mob involved in a violent attack on the official residence of the then district SSP Luv Kumar. Angered by the police not giving permission for a procession planned on the anniversary of Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar, angry BJP workers had stormed Kumar’s high-security house and vandalised it.
While an FIR related to the violence during the procession does name the BJP MP, the honest and upright police officer was shifted to Noida. When a hue and cry followed the transfer, an official spokesman of the state government said this was a “promotion and not a punishment since he was given a better district”! Better in what terms, only the BJP would know.
This apart, a mob of young party workers had not long ago manhandled policemen at Kannauj, the parliamentary constituency of Dimple Yadav, wife of former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
There have been other incidents as well where leaders of the ruling party have been caught on tape openly threatening police inspectors of dire consequences if they did not pay heed to matters raised by them. The police officers had secretly recorded the conversations and gave them to their superiors. In its defence, the BJP said its state leaders were only seeking justice for people, insisting that the tone and tenor of the conversation hardly mattered.
Last month, the brother of a senior cabinet minister openly humiliated a constable in Unnao, even telling him that he should mend his ways or else he would be disrobed in public. “Dalal kahin ka, purani sarkaar chali gayi hai, hosh mein rehna warna kapde utarwa doonga” (The old government has gone. Come to your senses or I’ll have you disrobed in public), he told a constable over the drowning of some youth in the Ganga river.
Cow vigilantes are also active in villages and are allegedly hounding the Muslim community and threatening them with consequences if they stepped out of line.
Some time back, senior minister Satyadev Pachauri was caught on camera during an inspection making derogatory references to a disabled employee. When disabled people can’t work why are they recruited, he asked officials.
To put this in perspective, some two years ago, in one his monthly radio chats, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that the word “divyaang” be used instead of ‘viklaang’ for the differently abled and yet Pachauri called the man a “loola langda” (dumb cripple), which is definitely a pejorative. He later apologised, saying he had been misinterpreted.
BJP workers seemingly are not paying heed to the repeated advisories from party leaders asking them to be “in control and humble”. Party President Amit Shah, during his address at the state executive earlier this month, warned workers and leaders against any adventurism and said they should learn to be humble and more responsible.
Adityanath, too, has on at least two occasions, asked workers to be good in their conduct. On one occasion he, however, blamed some “unscrupulous elements” wearing saffron scarves of indulging in hooliganism and bringing disrepute to the BJP.
Whatever be the case, the “elixir of power”, and that too after a long exile of 14 years, seems to be too much for the BJP workers and leaders not to be tempted with. What is even more ironical is the fact that the BJP romped home to power by highlighting the lawlessness by Samajwadi Party (SP) workers and promising change.