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July 29, 2024


On July 14, in a packed hall in Lucknow, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held its first state executive meeting since the 2024 Lok Sabha election results yanked away half the ground under its feet in Uttar Pradesh. Soil subsidence on that scale was bound to set off an inquisition. Who was to blame? The answer depends entirely on who's doing the asking, with self-exoneration built into that act itself.As suggestion and innuendo filled the air, deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya made the opening verbal salvo: “Sangathan sarkar se bada tha, bada hai aur bada rahega (the party organisation was larger than the government, is larger and will continue to remain larger).” Maurya's words, met with cheers from the assembled BJP members, came as the first clear location signal of where the crack would appear— and how it would grow. He went on to say, “Your pain and my pain is similar,” suggesting that there existed a brotherhood of the aggrieved within Yogi Adityanath's regime. It may be partisans on one side who are eager to pin responsibility for the BJP's poor performance on its most iconic chief minister. And Lucknow's apparent acts of omission can at best only be a partial explanation, since it entirely papers over New Delhi's strategic missteps. But that also seems to have created a synergy of purpose. For, the impact of Maurya's speech was swift. Within 48 hours, he was summoned to New Delhi to meet BJP national president J.P. Nadda, who in fact was present at the state executive meeting. As Maurya and state unit chief Bhupendra Chaudhary left for the national capital on July 16, there were murmurs about an impending “big decision” regarding a change in UP's leadership. Nothing came of it presently, but Maurya's supporters claim he would soon receive a “return gift” for voicing the party workers' concerns. Such is the gravity of the situation— a measure of how deep the divisions have become after the party saw its Lok Sabha seat tally nearly halving from 62 to 33. Several unsuccessful BJP candidates have dropped angry hints of local betrayal; others point fingers at officials for allegedly aiding the Opposition. The schism between sangathan and sarkar is only becoming more conspicuous with each passing day. Sources say Maurya and other senior leaders had previously expressed their dissatisfaction with Yogi Adityanath's leadership style to the central party command. It was too big a mountain to move then, but that power struggle has bled right into the present mess—with ambitions finding the accusatory air a conducive climate to grow in. Pretty much in sync, an orchestra of voices from the party picked up the cue, striking dire notes. Ramesh Chandra Mishra, who represents Badlapur in the assembly, claimed in a video message that the BJP was in a “very bad state” in UP, and if remedial measures weren't taken, it was not likely to come back to power in 2027. Around the same time, former state minister Moti Singh alleged that corruption had increased manifold under the present UP government. Both later claimed to have been misquoted, but the signals had gone out to the high command: the state BJP didn't lack in potentially mutinous segments willing to challenge Yogi's leadership. Yogi Adityanath, for his part, has a different perspective on the party's recent setback. His aides point out that the CM had little say in candidate selection, with tickets being decided by the central leadership and state organisation. Yogi himself talked of “overconfidence”. In his address to the state executive, he said, “The party has been successful in getting the same vote share in 2024 as it had got in 2014. But our overconfidence ended up hurting us....” It's true that the BJP's vote share, at 41.4 per cent, has shown just a slight dip from the 2014 numbers (42.6 per cent) and is in fact marginally higher than the 41.3 per cent recorded in the 2022 assembly hustings, but that's


IT is an old story, with a fresh chapter being written into it every so often. This May, it was a German charter flight of 253 Indians that was sent back from Jamaican capital Kingston to Dubai on suspicion of human trafficking. A few of the passengers were scheduled to travel to Nicaragua and others to Canada after a supposed week-long stay in Jamaica, although only one day was accounted for. Officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (Crime) of Gujarat suspect that around 75 passengers from the state and a few from Punjab were attempting to migrate to the US illegally. How does it feel to be sent back? It has been over seven months since Raman Thakor, 32, was deported from Vatry in France last year. Back now in Mehsana, a city in agrarian north Gujarat, there is not a single day when he does not think of going back. “This was his third failed attempt [at illegal immigration],” his wife Alpita, 30, tells us between sobs, even as her three-year-old daughter tries to wipe her tears while playing with a balloon. “Earlier, he had to return from Vietnam and Indonesia after agents duped him.” He is raring to go again, a thought that distresses Alpita no end, although Thakor's parents are unperturbed. “They are confident that he will reach the US somehow and, once there, all our financial troubles will be over,” says Alpita. “But what about me and our children?” Thakor was one of the 303 Indian passengers aboard a Nicaragua-bound Romanian charter plane that was grounded for four days at Vatry on suspicion of human trafficking. Although all passengers possessed valid travel documents, some of them confessed to wanting to unlawfully cross into the US via Mexico. Twenty-seven applied for asylum in France, while the remaining 276, including 96 from Gujarat and others from Punjab and Haryana, were repatriated. Later, upon their return to their native places in Mehsana, Gandhinagar and Patan in the north and Anand in central Gujarat, the CID (Crime) arrested 15 agents. With incidents like these getting reported frequently statewide, investigators have been chasing visa agents, middlemen and facilitators ('donkers' in human trafficking circles) who operate within sophisticated cartels across multiple nations. Data from the United States Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) for September 2023 shows a fivefold surge in Indian illegal immigrants since 2019-20—96,917 people were apprehended between October 2022 and September 2023, compared to 19,883 in 2019-20. But hard statistics cannot reflect the actual hardships these desperate men and women endure. Cinema, like the Shah Rukh Khanstarrer Dunki (the Punjabi word for the act of moving from one location to another), a tale of friends from a Punjab village aiming to reach England released last November, offers only a slice of life. But it takes a tragedy like the one that befell Praveen Chaudhary and his family of four in March 2023 to stir humanity's collective soul. The boat that the Chaudharys were in capsized on the St Lawrence River during their illegal attempt to enter the US from the QuebecNew York border in Canada. In January 2022, another family of four—including Jagdish Patel's three-year-old child—from Dingucha village in Mehsana died in a blizzard while trying to cross into the US from Canada. Two persons, including Gujarati-origin Harshkumar Patel a.k.a. 'Dirty Harry', were indicted for their deaths by a

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