Old timers mar Samajwadi Party's shiny new avatar
By Subhash Mishra
Published: 27th Oct 2013 09:06:25 AM
The youngest chief minister Uttar Pradesh has seen commands a salt and pepper cabinet that is tugging the government in myriad directions. As Akhilesh Yadav’s young turks work towards changing the Samajwadi Party’s feudal image with development on the ground, the tantrum-prone pampered old guard is holding it back and increasingly becoming a liability.
In a meeting in February with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, Arvind Singh Gope, the minister of state for rural development (independent charge), pointed out how hundreds of sick poor people in the state were dying as state aid could not reach them in time.
There is a provision whereby the CM can grant medical assistance to a poor patient from his discretionary quota, but since applications are received from across all 75 districts of the state, clearing them takes time. In most of cases, by the time a decision is taken it is too late.
“Sir, we can save thousands of lives every year if we amend the existing law so that instead of applicants coming to CM secretariat, MLAs are empowered to help such patients in their constituency. And Rs 25 lakh could be granted to each MLA for this purpose,” Gope told the CM.
Adviser to the CM, Amod Kumar, seconded the suggestion and a historic decision was arrived at.
“Such pro-poor decisions have been taken but they are hardly appreciated though now even the Opposition MLAs are welcoming the amendment,” said Gope (45). As the rural development minister, Gope’s main concern is to ensure housing and hygiene in rural areas. The hands-on minister supervises implementation of various schemes and often visits rural areas to review work. Emerging as a strong Rajput leader in the party, Gope is in the good books of both the CM and his father.
In the present government, there is a clear divide between young ministers who are eager to prove themselves and the old schoolers pampered by the party for their vote value.
If ministers like Gope, Vijay Mishra and Abhishekh Mishra represent the party’s GenX, old horses like Ahmad Hasan (health portfolio), Azam Khan (urban development and 4 other portfolios), Waqar Ahmed (bedridden), Rajaram Pandey (accused of making lewd remarks about a female district magistrate) are proving to be a liability.
Among the senior brigade, the PWD and irrigation minister with four more portfolios, Shivpal Yadav is definitely an exception as he has outdone the young and old. Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is said to told his son to “learn from Shivpal how bureaucracy is reined in and made to deliver the desired results”.
Unlike other ministers who focus solely on urban areas, Gope has taken rural programmes to rural areas. “I requested the CM to start the rural housing plan from a backward village in Unnao on the banks of the Ganga. Work is on in full steam. I am confident that in the next few months, villages too will have quality colonies as are seen in the cities,” said Gope, who emerged as an asset for the SP by consolidating the party base and uprooting the Congress and BSP in his home district Barabanki in the 2012 elections.
Another young SP turk making news for the right reasons is Abhishek Mishra (39), the IIM professor who quit his job and joined the party. Mishra has emerged as the poster boy of the SP’s transition from being perceived as a rural-based safe sanctuary for criminals to a party of educated and honest people. As the science and technology minister of state (independent charge), Mishra has drafted the science and technology policy, a first in the state. “I am trying to turn Lucknow into a bio-technology hub. It already has nearly 20 bio-technology institutes of national repute. We have announced a bio-technology policy that would help young scientists and also the farmers,” says Mishra.
Vijay Mishra, the 40-year-old minister of state for non-conventional energy, is exploring green alternatives to meet the state’s growing power demands.