In the dock

UP's chief minister cannot point fingers at others. His government has failed to keep the peace.

Muzaffarnagar has continued to reel under communal violence, with hostilities spreading across surrounding villages. Though security forces have asserted their presence, many residents have felt threatened enough to leave their homes and belongings behind, and flee to safety. This is not an isolated incident in Uttar Pradesh. There have been scores of smaller confrontations in the last year, after the Samajwadi Party came to power, and several lives have been lost in the clashes. But the Muzaffarnagar violence is of a scale unseen in the state perhaps since the early '90s. For failing to avert and contain this eruption, the responsibility lies squarely with UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

There have been grim warnings of the failure framed in Muzaffarnagar. While the Akhilesh Yadav government has been willing to break with procedure and sack a civil servant for her alleged role in the demolishing of a mosque wall, it has not provided Muslims with a sense of trust in the state's capacity to secure their life and property. For minorities, this government has concentrated on token gestures and showy but inefficient welfare schemes. In general, it has seemed distracted and ineffectual, and of late, focused entirely on the 2014 general election. There have been instances of SP leaders shielding criminals and interfering with police functioning, a tendency that saps the state's powers to deal with trouble like the violence in Muzaffarnagar.

When Akhilesh Yadav was elected in 2012, drawing support from every caste and community, it was seen as a mandate for change in a state known for its fragmented politics and sliding governance. So far, Akhilesh has been given the benefit of doubt. His constraints have been noted he inherited a party organisation disrespectful of state agencies, he must placate powerful elders in his party. But Muzaffarnagar drives home that there are no excuses left, no external factors to point to anymore. In the aftermath, Akhilesh has been quick to attack the BJP for fomenting communal tension to woo the Jat vote. A provocative fake video and the viral effects of social media have also been blamed. When he is not pointing fingers at others, the chief minister's posture is defensive, embattled he insists his officers are free to act, instead of leading from the front. While the causes behind the Muzaffarnagar clashes will emerge only after a thorough investigation, the response of the state has dramatically shown up the UP chief minister's slow reflexes and administrative ineptitude.

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