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The difficulty of being Akhilesh: 11 problems the UP chief minister faces ahead of a tough election
Akhilesh Yadav’s problems don’t stop at failing to distinguish between Mulayam the father and Mulayam the party president. Ticked off by Mulayam, pressured by his relatives as well as Azam Khan and faced with countless other problems before and after the Muzaffarnagar riots, the UP chief minister heads into a difficult poll with the Samajwadi Party up against a resurgent BJP. A look at his diverse problems:
The father: The general perception about who really rules remains, and that has constrained Akhilesh as a possible leader. It has allowed opposition parties to mock both. Mulayam has several times publicly criticised Akhilesh’s ministers, and said at his son’s residence that the ministers cannot survive without him. Mulayam frequently ticks off Akhilesh too, the last occasion coming Wednesday when he said” “Take tough decisions, don’t rely on officers. We are answerable to the people, not officer”.”
The family: Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh’s uncle and a minister, keep himself aloof from party events. Most of the SP rallies in the past year have been without him. Shivpal has built his own set of loyalists, and got his son Aditya Yadav appointed chairman of Pradeshik Cooperative Federation, the largest in the state. Ramgopal Yadav, Mulayam’s cousin, is another power centre. He frequently meets his own set of loyalists. It is a common perception in UP that works related to NCR cannot be done without his consent.
The riots: There may be differences of how many have broken out during Akhilesh’s two years, but they do keep happening. The Muzaffarnagar riots are the starkest example, and the government’s failure to curb such incidents have polarised the state with Muslims drifting away from the SP. The way the government tried to control the riots also resulted in resentment among the Jat community which finds the action partisan. The most recent site was Azamgarh, where two died. Ambedkarnagar remains tense with the murder of two Hindu Yuva Vahini leaders.
Azam Khan: The party’s Muslim face has often embarrassed the Akhilesh government with his tantrums. When he was removed as the minister in charge of Meerut, he resigned as that for Muzaffarnagar and Ghaziabad and relented only after he was reinstated for Meerut. Azam skipped cabinet meetings and the party’s national executive committee meeting. Akhilesh once had to go to Azam’s home to pacify him.
The party: The SP is split into factions in every district. Rival groups openly oppose one another despite Mulayam’s instructions to end bickering. The demarcations are visible clearly even at party functions and campaigns for candidates. Frequent changes in candidates have made the rifts wider. In Sambhal, supporters of Shafiqur Rehman Barq allegedly fired at and pelted stones at minister Iqbal Mehmood’s home, according to an FIR by the minister’s son. Rakesh Yadav, son of S P Yadav, has openly declared himself the candidate from Shrawasti. At Bhadohi, three MLAs have written to Akhilesh saying they cannot support candidate Seema Mishra. At Meerut, candidate Shahid Manzoor keeps baiting Azam Khan. At Khalilabad, Bhalchandra Yadav faces resistance from Abdul Qalam, whom he has replaced. At Saharanpur, open protests are being staged by a replaced candidate’s supporters.
The cadre: SP activists have given the party an image of one with goonda elements. MLA Irfan Solanki roughed up junior doctors in Kanpur, which resulted in statewide strike by medical fraternity. Activists have thrashed staff at toll plazas, and their processions often see shots being fired. A local SP leader has complained to police against minister Parasnath Yadav for thrashing him at Jaunpur. Minister Mehboob Ali once enforced a decree that meat be sold cheap in his Amroha district, leading to a month-long shutdown. And minister Kailash Chaurasia faces a complaint of helping his supporters grab land.
The cabinet: Most senior ministers do little other than write letters on behalf of their supporters. None of the ministers of state has been assigned any work officially, making them literally rush to Akhilesh’s house looking for work. The juniors have complained to Mulayam about the seniors giving them no work. Mulayam diverted them to the CM’s residence where they failed to meet him.
The big promises: Most infrastructure projects promised in power and roads have failed to take off. The government had extended the MoUs with nine power companies by 18 months for setting up units, but only one has taken any step in two years. The Lucknow-Agra expressway did not find any takers after bids were invited. The government has now decided to construct it on its own.
The freebies: Akhilesh has failed to provide tablets to students as promised in the manifesto. In two years, the government has also failed to keep the promises of free sarees and blankets to women and the elderly, and free battery-operated rickshaws; the scheme could not move ahead after the trial run.
The administration: In implementing programmes, the bureaucracy has often let Akhilesh down. At one stage, Akhilesh publicly admitted a senior officer took money for a project even after he had phoned the officer. At district level, officials work only according to the instructions of the local SP leaders.
The future: The BJP had just 10 MPs in 2009, when it finished fourth, but is now believed to be the frontrunner as it rides a Narendra Modi wave. Even Mulayam has been saying publicly the contest is between the SP and the BJP, an acknowledgment of ground lost and gained.