LUCKNOW: The Samajwadi Party (SP) victory in Uttar Pradesh was expected to usher an Akhilesh Yadav-led change in the state’s politics. The Cabinet chosen by the young Yadav, however, turned out to have the usual Samajwadi faces. Hope persisted; maybe Akhilesh would plant the seeds in his secretariat. There too, Akhilesh took the road previously taken.
But that still left the bureaucracy. Two days ago, Akhilesh put hopes on that account to rest as well, appointing three Officers on Special Duty (OSDs)—Arvind Yadav, Jagjivan and Jainendra Singh alias Neetu. Two of them had already been OSDs in the SP government of Mulayam Singh Yadav; the third was a former assistant at the Yadav family residence on Vikramaditya Marg in Lucknow.
Where have the half-dozen shooting stars of Akhilesh’s galaxy, those who worked day and night to ensure ‘Bhaiyyaji’ become chief minister, gone?
Naved Siddiqui, a radio jockey-turned-SP activist, could always be seen at Akhilesh’s press conferences, interacting with mediapersons and explaining issues his leader would address. Naved, a popular face and name in the state, also widely travelled with Akhilesh.
Rajiv Rai, another young face of the party and a businessman with a huge economic empire outside the state, mainly in Karnataka and Maharashtra, had become the face of the SP in TV discussions and debates. Rai was suddenly expelled from the party for anti-party activities and is nowhere to be seen now.
Ashish Yadav alias Sonu was Team Akhilesh’s unofficial media coordinator.
He would interact with mediapersons, from senior editors to district level correspondents, so Akhilesh would get good coverage. Sonu would travel with Akhilesh in his rath yatra and ensure that press notes and pictures would go out to the media from even the most remote places. He also made sure that reporters were got the best possible hospitality from the SP. A veritable mine of information then, Sonu, who is also from the Yadav kin group, now struggles to know the schedule of the chief minister.
Sunil Yadav ‘Sajan’, national president of the Yuvjan Sabha of the Samajwadi Party and Anand Bhadauria, chief of its state wing, were other prominent faces of Team Akhilesh. They were regarded as Akhilesh’s eyes and ears before and during the elections. If Sunil was known for his loyalty and commitment to Akhilesh, Bhadauria shot into prominence after being struck by Lucknow DIG D K Thakur, his picture was flashed all over the country to highlight police atrocities on SP workers. Bhadauria was a bridge between state chief Akhilesh Yadav and students, and had been demanding restoration of students’ unions in universities and the degree colleges. Both are believed to be sulking.
It’s not all Akhilesh’s fault, however. He couldn’t go against father Mulayam, though it is believed he was not in favour of inducting tainted persons into his ministry. Again, when some ministers like Mohammad Azam Khan, Raja Ram Pandey and Durga Yadav created negative news with their tantrums and remarks, an annoyed Akhilesh wanted to get rid of them, but Yadav Senior intervened. It is also believed that Akhilesh was deeply disappointed by Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal’s criticism of his ministry.
Similar subterfuge surrounds the ouster of senior IAS officer Sanjay Agarwal, who Akhilesh wanted as principal secretary. The buzz in Lucknow is that Agarwal’s IAS colleague Anita Singh, known for her closeness to Mulayam, did not want him in the secretariat. New Principal Secretary Rakesh Garg is said to be just a presence in the secretariat now, real power with Anita Singh.
Most bureaucrats feel that Akhilesh is powerless even on postings, citing the postings of Sanjeev Sharan and Rakesh Bahadur as CEO and chairman of NOIDA. Akhilesh was said to be reluctant to post these two tainted officers; the two posts remained vacant for 50 days. Finally, Akhilesh buckled under. Sharan and Bahadur had been suspended by the BSP government for their alleged role in Rs 5,000-crore scandal involving prime land being given away to hoteliers for peanuts during the Mulayam regime when the two officers held the same positions. That the two were close to Amar Singh did not endear them to Akhilesh.