Is Akhilesh Yadav losing the plot in UP?

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Updated: Mar 15, 2013, 10:20 AM IST

Ritesh K Srivastava

The Samajwadi Party (SP) government led by young and suave Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav will complete a year in office on March 15, but regrettably not much seems to have changed in the most populous state in the country. The SP, which ousted the Mayawati-led BSP government after state assembly elections last year, promising various sops and several welfare measures, has clearly fallen short of expectations. The state is in a complete mess with the law and order situation being the biggest concern.

The 38-year-old son of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was inarguably the chief architect of his party’s landslide victory in UP, seems to have completely lost the plot. Whatever one may say, the young Chief Minister has failed to change party’s tainted image and end goondaraj (muscle rule) to give a government accountable to its people.

Even one year after the Samajwadi Party’s coming to power in UP, the law and order situation remains grim. What has further worsened the situation is Akhilesh Yadav’s persistent failure to weed out criminals and mafia elements from his party.

The re-induction of several musclemen like Raguraj Pratap Singh and Vinod Kumar alias Pandit Singh, who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of the Bahraich district Chief Medical Officer, suggest that his grip on the party and government is loosening.

Political observers feel that Akhilesh has been incapacitated by his own men. The political culture nurtured by the Samajwadi Party in all these years has made it difficult for even its top brass to control the party cadre, which easily gets carried away by power.

The gruesome killing of Deputy Superintendent of Police Zia ul-Haq is a clear pointer that law and order situation has gone for a toss. The local police, already demoralised after the brutal killing of a senior officer, are groping in the dark for any vital lead in the case.

The ageing patriarch of the party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, popularly called ‘Neta ji’, had recently asked the SP cadres to prepare themselves for snap polls. However, the ground reality today suggests that in the event of early Lok Sabha polls, the ruling party may suffer huge reverses with archrival BSP seeming to be in a position to reclaim its lost glory.

The Centre-state blame game over Maha Kumbh stampede, the Deputy SP’s killing episode and other law and order issues seems to be building an environment against the SP government. Thousands of voters who voted in favour of the SP, anticipating that a change of guard will improve situation in UP, now seem to be regretting their decision.

In the 2012 assembly elections, the SP wrested control of the 403-member House by winning 224 seats. However, the changing perception of UP voters towards cycle-raj may cost heavily to the ruling party in the event of early elections.

Undeterred by an aggressive political campaign by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, BJP and rival BSP, Akhilesh silently but steadfastly led his party to a thumping victory. His elevation to the chief minister’s post – opposed initially by some in the party but later resolved after Neta Ji’s intervention - was welcomed amid expectations that he will usher in a new era of development.

Akhilesh, who is ‘different’ from his ‘wrestler’ father, appealed to the UP voters when they looked at ways to punish the BSP government for its perceived misrule and constant neglect of the other backwards castes, and Muslims etc. His strong opposition to giving party ticket to dreaded mafia don-turned-politician DP Yadav worked in his favour. His appeal, his magic worked wonders for the party and the BSP was ousted from power.

However in the past twelve months, the Yadav scion seems to have got entangled in one problem followed by another. Whether it is keeping powerful members of the Yadav clan like Shivpal Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav in good humour or elements like Azam Khan at bay by managing the constant struggle for power in the SP camp.

To some extent, Mulayam Singh Yadav has himself been a major hurdle in Akhilesh’s path to glory as he continues to have a major say in the party and the government’s affairs.

Also, the party patron is said to be behind the selection of at least a dozen ministers who were facing serious criminal charges.

Though Akhilesh effectuated a major bureaucratic reshuffle recently, it is well known in Lucknow’s power circles that most top government officials continue to be staunch Mulayam loyalists.

At times, Mulayam himself has been critical of the government led by his son. The father-son duo has issued diktats asking party cadre to behave properly, but it seems that their advice has fallen on deaf ears. Over-excited SP workers continue to use party flags and insignia on their vehicles, have a free run and take pride in flaunting their links with the SP bigwigs.

All this has badly dented Akhilesh’s popularity and his image has taken a beating, with some calling him a “majboor” (weak) CM.

On March 15, the Chief Minister would distribute free laptops and computer tablets to the students as promised in the party’s election manifesto and may announce new populist schemes to woo the farmers, Muslims and women.

All this with an aim to win at least 50 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 elections to consolidate Mulayam Singh Yadav’s chances of becoming Prime Minister. However, the bigger question still remains about whether the Akhilesh government would emerge stronger or remain just a paper tiger. Because if it fails, Neta ji’s Mission 2014 will surely remain a distant dream.