Adityanath's irritation with Oppn leaders visiting Gorakhpur betrays his own insecurity
For about 40 years now, Gorakhpur has been Congress-mukt. Yet, a mere visit to the constituency by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has rattled Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the local MP since 1998. The CM's anger is clear to see by the way he has slammed Gandhi's visit as a picnic and has made a call for not allowing it.
Adityanath's exasperation is understandable - he has represented the BJP in Gorakhpur for five back-to-back terms and before him, the constituency was represented by his guru, Mahant Avedyanath, for three successive terms. Gorakhpur has essentially been controlled by the Gorakhnath Mutt, which Adiyanath heads now, for decades.
If the public health system in Gorakhpur is in a critical state after decades, a fare share of the responsibility lies with the Mutt and Adityanath. The Mutt itself is an unparalleled force in the region even without the power that comes from being the force behind long-serving MPs of the seat.
However, the BRD Hospital tragedy has exposed the inefficiency shown by the Mutt and its powerful Mahant-MPs in dealing with the epidemic of encephalitis and the crumbling health-care system in Gorakhpur.
It is a measure of Adityanath's failure that he has given the call for encephalitis-mukt Gorakhpur 19 years after he becoming the local MP. The city administration and successive state governments will answer for themselves on their culpability, but what was Adityanath doing all this while? How did encephalitis remain ensconced in the area where his followers chant: “Gorakhpur mein rehna hai, toh Yogi-Yogi kehna hai” (If you have to live in Gorakhpur, you must chant Yogi-Yogi)?
Three stages of failure
It is clear that Adityanath has failed not at one, but three levels – as CM, as MP for 20 years and as the local overlord for a longer duration than that. To hide his failure, he is deploying the classic tactic of creating diversions by announcing a cleanliness campaign. This is the time to take immediate steps to strengthen Gorakhpur's hospitals, to identify those responsible for the BRD Hospital tragedy and take them to task.
Adityanath has already displayed diversionary manoeuvres on those fronts. He and the state administration led by him initially denied that the deaths took place due to lack of something as critical as oxygen. Then came the act of letting the culprits go scot-free by finding a scapegoat in Dr Kafeel Khan. Trying to divert focus from the tragedy by launching fancy programmes and slogans is the latest act of trying to bring down the bad press.
The visits to BRD Hospital by opposition leaders will serve to keep attention focused on the tragedy and how to ensure that a repeat never happens anywhere in the country. Adityanath knows this and is therefore getting annoyed at the visits, calling Gandhi “yuvraj” from Delhi and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav “shehzada” from Lucknow. He must not forget that Gandhi is an MP from the same state while Yadav is a former CM.
They are not just entitled to visit Gorakhpur but are duty-bound to do so. From no seat, the CM's chair or the Mahant's, does Adityanath get the power to stop them from visiting. He should instead focus on punishing the real culprits behind the disaster and take steps to ensure that nothing of that sort happens in the state again.