Chief minister vows turn around for India’s ‘failed state’

LUCKNOW, India- Best known as home to the Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh is gaining a new reputation as India’s “failed state”, with a series of rapes and killings fueling calls for it to be brought under central government control.

After yet more grim headlines Monday over another gang-rape and fatal shooting of two policemen, Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced he was “closely monitoring” the “prevailing law and order situation”.

With senior members of his administration warning things could get worse unless deep-rooted social problems are tackled, the heat is on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

But in an interview with AFP, Yadav insisted he would not be bowed by his critics and was determined to restore the good name of the state which has a population of some 200 million — the biggest in India.

“Because UP is a big state, politically, it is a very strong state and critics don’t want to see a young chief minister here, they think ‘let’s damage him’,” Yadav, 40, said at his residence in the state capital Lucknow.

But the “critics are making me more strong and they think I’m going to lose. No, I’m going to be strong and I will work more hard. In a good way I will improve.”

Since he became India’s youngest state minister two years ago, Yadav has struggled to shake off the impression that he is merely doing the bidding of his powerful father Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The elder Yadav, a former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and federal defence minister who remains leader of the socialist Samajwadi Party (SP), triggered outrage during the recent general election with comments about rape in which he said that “boys will be boys”.

But in the interview Sunday, the chief minister said that he was in favor of capital punishment for rapists.