Six months on,too many in the SP wield power without accountability
Last Saturday,on completing six months in office,Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav patted himself on the back for taking several steps to honour the promises that the Samajwadi Party had made in its election manifesto.
The payment of unemployment allowance has begun,distribution of free laptops and tablets to school students will start soon,so will the Kanya Vidya Dhan scheme,under which each girl passing class XII will be given Rs 30,000. Meanwhile,farmers will get water for irrigation free of cost and more goodies are in the pipeline. We take our manifesto seriously,unlike other parties,and we will fully implement it,the CM declared.
However,doling out freebies is easy,more so if a government has no use for economics. The business of governance is demanding. In UP,it seems to have taken the backseat. While Akhilesh was congratulating himself in Lucknow,Ghaziabad in the NCR was reeling from a particularly vicious bout of rioting,sparked off by an alleged incident of sacrilege,which left six persons dead. Earlier,Bareilly had remained under curfew for a month. Rioting had taken place at Kosi Kalan in Mathura and Asthan in Pratapgarh district.
Akhilesh admitted that there was something seriously wrong with the police and promised action against officers who had allowed the situation to spin out of control in Ghaziabad. He could do a few more things.
For example,the CM could ask for a report on the districts where police chiefs have been changed twice or more and demand why. He could ask for another report on the incidents where SP men had gone berserk,bullied and beat up officials,and in some cases freed people whom the police had held for questioning or for involvement in criminal offences. He could ask for a third report on the events in Lucknow on August 17,which took place barely a few kilometres from the secretariat. The police had watched while a mob protesting against alleged atrocities on Muslims in Assam and Myanmar smashed vehicles,stoned shops,beat up passers-by and journalists,vandalised two parks and damaged statues of Buddha and Mahavir.
Under Mayawati,governance in UP went for a toss because she had no patience for consultation and discussion,no respect for feedback and public opinion. She ran the government by diktat,assisted by a small coterie. But everyone knew where the buck stopped. Now,the situation is exactly the opposite. Akhilesh is CM,but there are too many people exercising power as if they were accountable only to themselves.
Topping the list is Akhileshs father and SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav,who has made it amply clear that he is the boss. He presided over a meeting of SP legislators who are supposed to be headed by the CM and expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of the government,saying that certain ministers needed to mend their ways and improve their performance. The venue in which he chose to give the government a dressing down was the CMs official residence.
Next,there is the CMs uncle and party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav,who is in charge of the organisation. Then there is uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav,the PWD minister,who famously told officials at a meeting that it was alright to steal a little,but dont commit dacoity.
Each has his favourites and loyalists. In the last six months,the government has failed to constitute statutory bodies like the womens commission,the SC/ST commission,the backward classes commission,and the state minorities commission,reportedly because the top men cannot agree on common names. Officials talk of drift,lack of clarity,and a missing sense of direction in the government.
As if that is not bad enough,there are the regional satraps and others who believe they can do anything because it is hamari sarkar. They include subtle interlopers who call up officers,ordering them,cajoling them and even bullying the reluctant ones to do their bidding. There are others like Textile and Sericulture Minister Mehboob Ali,who dictated such unrealistic meat prices to the butchers of Amroha that they preferred to close business in protest. Then there is the bunch of SP men in Kanpur who beat up teachers when they objected to a small-time party leader walking into their college with armed guards.
Already,Mayawati is warning of a throwback to the lawlessness of the previous SP regime,which Mulayam Singh Yadav headed and which she had replaced in 2007. But it is early days yet and Akhilesh Yadav has plenty of time. Luckily for him,he still enjoys considerable personal goodwill because of his accessibility,openness and modesty. There are occasions when he has tried to discipline the rogue elements. He also realises the importance of creating jobs and power generation capacities,building roads,attracting investment and reviving agriculture. But first he and his family will have to sort out the business of running the government.
Virender Kumar is editor,Lucknow,The Indian Express