LUCKNOW: Time flies, they say. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav would second that: it’s already been a month since the Samajwadi Party (SP) formed a government in Uttar Pradesh, but no steps have been taken to bring the state back on the promised path of progress and development. Adding infamy to inaction, the rowdy and unruly behaviour of some ruling party ministers and MLAs has already dented the hopes of those who voted for change. The delayed constitution of an effective secretariat and the SP’s factional fights have only worsened the situation.
The symptoms came early. Akhilesh Yadav took nine days to form his ministry, repeating nearly a dozen tainted ministers including Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya. Most of Akhilesh’s ministers hold the same portfolio they did in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government of 2003; it was because of their poor performance and widespread lawlessness in the state that the SP government lost in the 2007 elections.
Akhilesh, it seems, hasn’t really learned. Shying away from a clean break with the past, Akhilesh has also failed to get officers of his choice in his secretariat. He is now saddled with the same set of officers that his father had, including Anita Singh. For chief secretary, Akhilesh has Javed Usmani, who has been out of Uttar Pradesh for over five years. The principal secretary of the chief minister is Rakesh Garg who has also returned to Lucknow after more than five years. Anita Singh, Akhilesh’s secretary, is isolated, and lacks coordination with other officers in secretariat. “It is the first time that the chief minister’s secretariat lacks a powerful and effective officer like Shashank Shekhar Singh or P L Punia,” says a special secretary in the government.
The Cabinet has already started to rumble. More than a few ministers are unhappy with the functioning of the chief minister’s office. Cabinet minister Rajaram Pandey is on record as saying that the “chief minister’s secretariat is not listening to us and files are not being processed”. The view is echoed by those on the outside. “The lack of cohesion at the top in the government and the bureaucracy is because the chief minister is not independent and he has to merely execute the orders of his father,” says BJP spokesperson Hridaya Narain Dixit.
Akhilesh is, after all, working in his father’s shadow. The Manmohan-Sonia analogy is hot gossip in the state’s political circles. Akhilesh started on a weak note, “requesting” those who had gone overboard in celebrating the SP victory to respect the law. The spat between senior SP leader Mohammad Azam Khan and the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari saw Akhilesh favour the maulana and open himself up to criticism of Muslim appeasement.
Akhilesh has shown his u-turn capabilities too. The SP leadership had vociferously opposed the JP Group’s projects in the state as well as the role of the Ponty Chaddha group in the state’s excise policy. Now, Akhilesh seems comfortable to co-exist with these two business houses.
What is working for Akhilesh is his people-friendly approach. After five years, the chief minister is available and accessible to anyone. But that may not be enough.