08 May, 2021

The Test Of A New Track

Akhilesh gives UP its first chug along development politics. The CM’s offbeat ride worries rival parties.

No Red
Akhilesh, father Mulayam at Lucknow Metro trial run on January 12
Photograph by PTI
The Test Of A New Track

In 2013, west-central Uttar Pradesh threw a paradox in a country where it isn’t unusual for poor landholders to violently resist takeover moves for big projects. Protests erupted in an area earmarked to lay the showpiece Agra-Lucknow expressway—only that it was not against land acquisition. In sharp contrast, farmers were angry because their land was not being acq­uired, despite an earlier proposal. The 302-km zippy highway is now a dev­e­lopment mascot for UP’s poll-bound chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. The 43-year-old leader is seen pitching himself around economic transformation of India’s most populous state, rather than old-style politics based on caste and cron­yism. It’s a makeover that’s worrying rivals, particularly the BJP.

Remarkably, Akhilesh has managed to cut a different image for himself from that of his powerful dynastic party associated with feudal-style ruffian politics organised along sectarian lines. UP, with 21 crore people, actually stands on par with Brazil in terms of population. How far has the...

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