The Uttar Pradesh every journalist talks about but never writes about

Posted: March 16, 2010 in Politics
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I lived and worked in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh from 2001 to 2005, where I saw three governments in power, one of the BJP under Rajnath Singh, then the BSP under Mayawati and the third of the SP under Mulayam Singh Yadav. My colleagues cautioned me to use a PRESS sticker on my vehicle or I could get robbed of my vehicle in broad daylight and no one would raise a finger to help me. I thought they were joking.

I realised the joke was on me, when on my first day at Hindustan Times, in Lucknow, sometime in November 2001, I was sitting at my desk reading the newspapers, when a headline caught my eye: “Amarmani Tripathi declared absconder”

Amarmani Tripathi is a politician-cum-criminal currently serving a jail term for the murder of a poetess. He knew the fine art of surviving in politics. He simply switched parties during every election! In 2001, he was a minister in the BJP Government and when he fell foul with CM Rajnath Singh, the cases against him were reopened and he was declared an absconder.

So there I was staring at the headline in front of me, and as I looked up from the newspaper, I saw a man dressed in all white approaching my cubicle, followed by a couple of armed policemen, who were obviously his security personnel. As the man swaggered past me, he smiled and I too gave a polite smile. I looked at him and then again at the picture in the newspaper. It was “absconder Amarmani Tripathi” and for someone who was allegedly running from the law, he seemed totally unfazed. He went to the Hindi Hindustan editorial department to meet the editor. When I told some of my colleagues about this, they had a hearty laugh. For them, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. For me, however, it was an eye-opener.

A few months later, I read a report that said a man could not prove in an UP court that he was alive even as he stood there in flesh and blood because his relatives had declared him dead to usurp his property. I was told by a reporter, who was also a lawyer, that he could declare me dead or prove that my car was stolen! I believed him.

A few days after that Mukhtar Ansari, a dreaded mafia don, who was serving time in jail, was supposedly brought for a medical check-up to a local hospital. I say supposedly because I remember how my reporter Manish Chandra Pandey, rushed in excitedly to tell me that Ansari was strolling through Hazratganj, Lucknow’s shopping district, exchanging pleasantries with shopkeepers and then proceeding to his flat where he held a ‘durbar’! Policemen who were supposedly guarding him were strolling along behind him, quite unconcerned by the stir the don’s walkabout was creating. The next day when the pictures appeared in all the newspapers the government defended the inaction by the cops and packed Ansari off to Tihar!

Then, on another occasion, when a very powerful business tycoon’s son was getting married, one of the reporters told me how goons from a political party walked into the showroom and drove away with new cars, as the staff stood by silently. If you value your life you keep your mouth shut. And also, how an entire housing society was asked to vacate because it overlooked the home of a business tycoon, who was celebrating the marriage of his children. They claimed it was “security” but no one reported these stories because you don’t report such stuff if you value your advertising revenue!

For a State that wallows in crime, poverty, communal violence and crooked politicians, nothing that happens there surprises me anymore. But, on Monday, even I, like a million others who must have watched the news, was totally aghast at the manner in which UP Chief Minister Mayawati was garlanded with 1000 rupee notes and was photographed posing under it for posterity. In this show of opulence, what I find surprising is not that people can go to such absurd lengths to pamper a politician, who doesn’t care a fig for the people she lords over, but the fact that not a single government at the Centre, in all these years, has had the guts to pull her up for looting the state and accumulating cash, properties and diamonds.

It’s not the first time that the lady has been given this ‘honour’, so why no one in government really bothers to ask her what she’s done with all that cash, tells us a lot about the crooks (and that’s putting it mildly) who masquerade as honest politicians to enact legislation to curb black money, and then keep stashing their’s away in banks abroad! And when such announcements come from the mouth of a respected and supposedly honest prime minister, it makes one wonder. What’s even more frustrating is the fact that year after year it’s the honest taxpayer who gets screwed (there really is no other word) and silently bears the burden while the scumbags in their dhotis or safari suits get a free run. Otherwise, can you tell me, how politicians like Mayawati and Laloo have survived for so long?

For example, everyone knows that Mayawati’s assets jumped by Rs 500 crore in five years. We heard reports during the last election that the CBI was going to question her on how this miracle had happened. But it never went beyond the ‘heard’ stage. She was also an accused in the Taj Corridor scam, where she allegedly sold off large tracts of land behind the monument to private parties for the construction of commercial complexes! Heard anything about that from the CBI lately? All these cases are in the news only during an election or when MPs are required to vote during a no-confidence vote. Then these cases are used to force them to fall in line with the government’s line of thinking.

During my stint in Lucknow, I also watched a CD which showed a powerful politician of an equally well-known party, bluntly tell ticket hopefuls that they needed to deposit a specified amount of cash “towards a personal fund” if they wanted tickets for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections! The politician is seen explaining that since these hopefuls would anyway, recover this “loss” once they were elected, there was no reason why they should not pay this amount! The CD did the rounds of all the newspaper offices, but nothing came out of it because no newspaper owner wanted to incur the wrath of this vengeful politician. They were more interested in securing government contracts and keeping their factories running smoothly.

  1. Pradeep Menon says:

    The situation in Uttar Pradesh reminds of Gotham in ‘Batman Begins’. UP’s politics has fascinated me for a long time. It has always been a state where the struggle for power reaches epic proportions. Unfortunately, the problem with a career in politics is the fact that for any good to come out of it, you need to be good at politics and good at heart as well. And in UP, there clearly appears to be no one in power who is good at heart. Mayawati in particular, who is quite a smart politician to be fair, is pretty rotten inside. Mulayam is a has-been. The BJP has been indifferent in UP, never quite making an impact. The Congress is, well, the Congress. The last assembly elections in UP could be a sign of positive things to come for them. I’d like to think Rahul G. is a good man, and honestly wants to do good work. I’d rather see him as CM in UP for a good decade before he comes anywhere close to The Seat in Delhi. UP needs a good man at the helm of affairs.

  2. UP. Well what can one say about a place where such people are elected only, defeating people who are no better but not criminals. From Congress to BJP, and BSP to SP every one has only mafia as a candidate. Where do people go? Centre never had a clue that there is state called ‘ Uttar Pradesh’ below Delhi.There is nothing better to be offered by anyone in the near future, unfortunately.
    But your stint with these people in lucknow sounds quite fascinating, Sir!!

  3. Hiren says:

    Sir, as long as Mayawati has power, UP does not have much chance to develop or grow. It’s ironic to see a leader garlanded with currency notes where its people are trying to earn that much in a month. That money was of the tax-payers to make sure that India improves it’s economic condition. If they are paying her salary, than that’s weirdest way to do so.

    Sir, the media has the job of informing us, the people. We see, but we don’t do anything else than just comment. We have proof against her wrong-doings, then why don’t we take action?
    I don’t understand how does our judiciary system take a long time to come to a decision. What we need today and do not get are responsible politicians.

    Definition of politician
    During the 40’s-60’s: A person who understands the condition of his country, his people and leads to improve conditions.

    Now: Person whose sole interest is politics and has no education. Being a leader means luxury of money and comfort.

  4. […] most populous state had become a living hell. This should be an eye-opener for those who thought Uttar Pradesh stood for Utopia […]

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