Lucknow: Thirteen months ago, when Yogi Adityanath was entrusted with the reins of India’s most populous state, a large chunk of the people of Uttar Pradesh looked toward him with hope and even admiration. After all, by winning as many as 324 of the state’s 403 seats in the 2017 state assembly elections, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) had created a record of sorts , propelling a visibly polarised Hindu population to believe that they would now, at long last, get some respite from what was widely perceived to be a “corrupt” and “criminalised” regime under Akhilesh Yadav and his family.
One year down the line, even many of the saffron clad chief minister’s admirers have begun to feel the disillusionment with his style of working, which remained laced with overdose of high-sounding claims, tall promises and much lip service.
While his failures on various fronts were seen as a consequence of his inexperience in governance – anything beyond the precincts of the multi-crore Gorakhnath temple trust that he has been running for decades – what seems to have exposed his frailties and fallacies is the more recent Unnao rape and murder case. Even as Yogi would not tire of proclaiming himself as the last word in ensuring the protection and safety of women, it took ten months for the 17- year old rape victim to get an FIR registered against all powerful BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who rules the roost in Unnao, a district barely 50 km from Lucknow, the state capital.
The Yogi administration failed to take any cognizance of the poor victim’s oft-repeated pleas until she attempted self-immolation in front of the chief minister’s residence last Sunday, following which she hit the headlines, compelling the government to wake up from its apathy and slumber.
Constant media hammering did lead the UP police to book Sengar’s brother Atul Singh for the murder of the rape victim’s father, who was beaten black and blue in full public view earlier on April 3, after he dared the MLA by raising his voice against the daughter’s rape. What was worse that the Yogi Adityanath’s police chose to book the father under various sections of IPC and send him to jail where he was given yet another round of thrashing – this time at the hands of the cops, blatantly servile before the MLA. The half-dead man succumbed to his injuries, following which the administration was left with no choice but to book the MLA’s brother.
However, MLA Sengar continued to go scot free because of his clout with the government. As one who had won from every assembly seat in Unnao on tickets of different political parties over the years, Sengar remained an invincible don of the area. He also carved out a niche for himself as a Thakur leader in UP’s caste-ridden politics. Yogi Adityanath’s alleged soft corner for the community added to his arrogance. Every time the media took up for the rape victim or her father, Sengar’s supporters were up in arms, intimidating all and sundry, including the media .
On Wednesday evening, he went in a long motorcade to the Lucknow district police chief’s residence around midnight only to declare, “I have come here only to let everyone know that the media is falsely painting me as an absconder.” Earlier in the day, he was seen unabashedly roaming around the chief minister’s office too. Meanwhile, his supporters went about running down the rape victim and her family in various ways. “Who is going to rape a mother of two or three children”, was the refrain of another BJP MLA, Surendra Singh, who came out in open support of Sengar. They also went about labelling the victim as a woman of “loose character”.
Having got away with murder in all these years, he thought everyday was Sunday. So he went about his brazen ways, while UP’s cops chose to look the other way. While his influence over the local police was visible all along, what displayed his clout with the top bosses was the statement made by UP director general of police O.P.Singh.
“After registering a case against him under the POSCO Act, the state government has taken a decision to hand over this case to CBI; hence UP police will not be arresting him. Now it is up to the CBI to arrest him or not arrest him,” Singh told a specially convened press conference on Thursday morning, where he continued to refer to the alleged rapist MLA as “mananniya” (honourable). As if to add insult to injury, the state police chief sought to justify that by clarifying, “Since he is a legislator, he will have to be referred to as ‘mananniya’, until the charges against him are proved by a court of law.”
The chief minister too continued to turn a blind eye to all his deeds and misdeeds, until the Allahabad high court took suo motto cognizance of the case and grilled the UP advocate general later on Thursday to spell out whether the UP government was going to arrest Sengar or not. While the advocate general went about giving wishy-washy replies in court, the Union government apparently took the cue and went ahead with speedy action against the culprit, well ahead of an expected rap from the court.
Early Friday morning, a CBI team picked him up from his house in Lucknow’s Indira Nagar and kept him “for questioning”. Special CBI teams were rushed to Unnao to carry out complete preliminary inquiry, before the agency formally registered a case against him him and arrested late Friday night.
Interestingly, however, Sengar’s nephew Prakhar Singh claimed, “We are happy that the case has been entrusted to CBI; in fact, my MLA uncle had himself been demanding a CBI probe into the matter.” He went on to add, “Now you can see for yourself that if he was guilty of the charges levelled against him, why would he himself seek a CBI inquiry.”
Meanwhile, unmindful of the boiling cauldron in Lucknow, the mahant turned chief minister Yogi Adityanath chose to fly off to Madhya Pradesh for a special puja at a temple in Dattia.