From pious to power: Saffron hue abounds in UP corridors

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Comparisons can be odious, but they certainly are vital many times and required to bring forth a stark reality. Yogi Adityanath’s government in Uttar Pradesh is spending a whopping `12 crore on just getting ready 50 saffron Antyoday buses for the Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s birth centenary celebrations. These buses will be ceremoniously flagged off on September 25. But The same government could not afford to pay pending bills of some `60 lakhs to a private oxygen cylinder company, which allegedly stopped supply of gas cylinders to the ICU of Baba Raghav Das Medical College (BRD) in Gorakhpur. Some 72 children suffocated to death in this August. The fact that Gorakhpur is the home district of the Chief Minister and more so ever that he has been a big crusader of children’s health rights prior to becoming the CMof the state makes this comparison truly apt.

While opposition leaders cry foul and openly condemn the saffron painting of buses, calling it ‘extravagant, unnecessary and vulgar display of saffron power’ those in authority dismiss it off as necessary and a step towards improvement and modernization of the local bus service. They explain that these buses which are being made in the UPSRTC workshop in Kanpur, have Euro 1V emission norms. They also support the colour change and say the saffron hue will make them more conspicuous and help in checking accidents as they can be identified from far due to their bright colour.

This is an old game and same defense have been given by earlier parties too when they were heckled by their opponents on the issue. When in power the Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati had gone on full swing to promote the party colour blue. When her move to paint the public buses blue was stalled by the court she found another way to add blue to the UPSRTC buses. She got her party slogan sarvjan hitay sarvjan sukhay painted in blue and white on outer body of the buses.

Not be left behind when the Samajwadi Party came to power they went on a binge for their party colours red and green. Lohia Gramin Bus service was launched, fleet of buses purchased at very high prices and started at what was claimed at 20 per cent lesser fare. These buses had red and green stripes painted on them. And hoped that the party colours would impact the mind of the voter in the long run.

UPSRTC officers, tools in the hands of the state machinery, seem to have no option but to obey orders. It seems that somewhere down the line the UPSRTC is flaunting its own UP Motor Vehicles Rules which states that UPSRTC vehicles will be painted in blue and cream colour “Wrong priorities and total waste of public money, Congress condems the move totally,” is how Syed Zeeshan Haider, state spokesperson, Congress sees the new colour code initiative by the state government. According to him UPSRTC should have taken on priority the repair and maintenance of the hundreds of buses that are rusting at the depots all over the state. “The public will not benefit by the colour but increase in number of buses that will lead to increase in frequency of the buses. Safe and comfortable interiors more important for a commuter than the colour of the bus,” he said.

But seems that the BJP government is not going to stop at just the saffronization of the buses. The UP power corporation is planning to paint electricity poles in saffron hue reports. According to officers in the energy sector the process has already started. Each pole painting will be costing `1,345.

Painting public utilities in their party colours seems to have become a practice of ruling party. While Samajwadi Party used its green and red colour to the maximum all over the state it also made the smart move of using the party symbol cycle to build cycle tracks all over the state. The BJP government when it came to power had announced that it will breakdown these cycle tracks but it seems that they will do so as additional public expenditure.

The BJP all out saffron agenda seems to have even bypassed Mayawati’s penchant for blue. The BSP supremo not only adorned the entire state with buntings and hoardings party symbol elephant and party colour blue, her party colour but also used huge public money by establishing huge bronze statues of herself and party founder Kashi Ram. She had even changed the uniforms of the traffic constables from khakhi to blue. All this at the cost of the poor tax-payer.

So when the saffron party came to power change of colour was inevitable. In fact the moment the BJP came to power in April and Yogi Adityanath was declared the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh the bhagwa colour was bound to rule the state. In fact the CM’s first press conference saw the backrest towel of the Yogi chair turn to orange from the usual white.

If it is any solace to the reader it is true that UP is not the only state in the country who has been changing colours it has been done by other states too. Gujarat painted its bus stopps in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar saffron. Maharashtra Transport Corporation has also coloured its buses fleet in saffron.

What the commonman is objecting to is not just the useless expenditure but also the fact that the party is playing with the sentiments of the people by misusing the sacred bagwa colour, associated with Gods to gain political mileage. Regarded as a colour of Hindutva and considered pious today in UP bhagwa is the colour of power. All public utilities and government official documents including the information diary have saffron hue. In private life too one can see people donning this colour. One media person commented that now it is common to find awardees wearing saffron sarees and kurtas when they are attending a function where the chief minister is going to be the chief guest.

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