New Delhi: With the BJP and other right-wing outfits turning Ayodhya into an arena over the Ram temple issue, chief minister Yogi Adityanath grabbing the headlines with his name-changing spree, and the opposition testing its mahagathbandhan-in-the-making by winning crucial bypolls, Uttar Pradesh lived up to its reputation of being a hotbed of politics.
With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections nearing, politics has already intensified as the politically-crucial state sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha and plays a key role in the deciding the poll prospects of the parties.
As the year drew to a close, the law and order situation in the state came into sharp focus again with the killing of a police inspector in mob violence over alleged cow slaughter in Bulandshahr district.
While the main accused in the case – a local Bajrang Dal leader – continued to remain at large, CM Adityanath faced opposition’s ire which alleged that the former has gave more importance to cows that human lives.
A month later, on December 29, a police constable was killed in stone pelting by protesters while returning from the venue of a public meeting addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur
The ruling BJP suffered shock defeats this year in the Lok Sabha bypolls in three key constituencies — Gorakhpur (held by Yogi Adityanath before he became chief minister), Phulpur (represented by Deputy CM Keshav Maurya) and Kairana — as opposition parties joined hands to stop the BJP juggernaut.
Months after tasting blood there, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party kept the opposition’s hopes of a ‘grand alliance’ in 2019 alive by offering the Congress support, even if somewhat grudgingly, to form the government in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath also did his bit for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the recent assembly elections, campaigning for it in the poll-bound states. But he also got embroiled in a row when he described Lord Hanuman as Dalit.
Despite the 2018 bypoll defeats, the BJP with its big majority in the assembly swept the biennial elections to the state’s legislative council and, as voters, its UP MLAs helped add to the party’s numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The year saw the birth of two new political outfits. Sidelined Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Singh Yadav floated Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia and Independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh, often called ‘Raja Bhaiya’, approached the Election Commission for registration of his own party.
Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad, who was imprisoned for a year on charges of threatening national security, said his Bhim Army will support candidates fielded jointly by the opposition against the BJP next year.
The Ram temple made a comeback with the BJP government at the Centre facing demands from within the party and other saffron outfits to bring a law to pay way for the construction of a grand temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Keeping in view the ‘delay’ in the Supreme Court where the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute is being heard, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad held a `Dharam Sabha’ in Ayodhya, days ahead of the December 6 anniversary of the demolition there of the Babri Masjid.
In an apparent bid to mollify the dissenting voices, the Adityanath government announced it will install a 221-metre statue of Lord Ram in Ayodhya.
In a related move, the Adityanath government has also renamed Faizabad district as Ayodhya. In addition, Allahabad, where the Kumbh mela will be held early next year, is now Prayagraj. Mughalsarai railway station is now renamed after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay.
Meanwhile, allegations of fake police encounters hounded the state government, with over 60 alleged criminals being killed since Yogi Adityanath took charge in March 2017. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the state in certain cases.