Akhilesh Yadav has redeemed himself with the commendable speed with which his government reacted to the defacement of a Mayawati statue by the new-fangled UP Navnirman Sena last week,an incident that could have sparked off a law-and-order crisis. Section 144 was applied statewide as a preventive measure but,more significantly,within hours of the vandalism,the administration had removed the statue for repairs and installed a temporary replacement,which was providentially languishing in the premises of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. Perhaps there is no dearth of spare Mayawati statues in Lucknow,after the binge of commemorative public artistry she had embarked upon while in office,but at least Yadavs administration used its imagination to think up this placatory gesture.
It is unusual for a government to react so rapidly to an incident it could have milked for political mileage. This sensitive,decisive action marks a welcome change from the slide Yadavs government appeared to have slipped into. He had come to power on a huge mandate,cutting across vote banks,as the new face of the Samajwadi Party. But even as the state government was being formed,it was visibly clear that he had not managed to leave behind the legacy of the previous SP regime the army of lumpens who had,in public perception,come to be associated with the rule of Mulayam Singh Yadav. Now,violence appears to be as routine in UP as it always was,the beheading of the BSP chiefs statue being the latest instance.
UPs new chief minister has also stumbled on policymaking. First,he attempted to balance the supply of electricity between rural and urban areas by closing malls,restaurants and other public places at peak hours. The decision was immature and had to be withdrawn immediately. He also caused an outcry by allowing MLAs to buy luxury cars using constituency development funds. And his proposal to rename eight districts that Mayawati had named was a complete waste of his time. One decisive action has cleared the record for now. To secure his brand positioning as an agent of change,Yadav should step decisively out of his fathers shadow and assert his position as chief executive of his government.