With ministers like his, Akhilesh needs no enemies

By Mohit Dubey, IANS,

Lucknow: Who needs an opposition if you have such ministers? That really is the sorry story of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav with one cabinet colleague after another bent on embarrassing him.

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Mohammed Azam Khan, Shivpal Singh Yadav, Raja Ram Pandey, Ambika Choudhary, Durga Prasad Yadav… the list of ministers leaving Akhilesh Yadav red-faced is long. The 39-year-old took over as chief minister in March this year, and the troubles just don’t seem to end.

In the latest, the all powerful Parliamentary Affairs, Minority Welfare and Urban Development Minister, Azam Khan, skipped the chief minister’s iftar party Thursday night. He was said to be miffed with the expulsion of close aide Syed Waseem Rizvi from the party for six years. Rizvi, officiating head of the Shia Wakf Board, has alleged that he was removed following pressure from senior cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad.

Khan has thrown tantrums earlier, once even writing to the chief minister, seeking his own dismissal from the cabinet. The matter was sorted out after Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo and chief minister’s father Mulayam Singh Yadav interceded on Khan’s behalf.

And last week, Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle, PWD and Irrigation Minister Shivpal Yadav, told a group of officials that it was okay “to steal a little but not loot”.

He had earlier courted controversy when he went to Dasna jail in Ghaziabad to call on bureaucrat Pradeep Shukla, accused of involvement in the multi-crore National Rural Health Mission (NHRM) scam.

Another SP veteran, Ram Govind Chowdhary, now the basic education minister, had not so long ago advocated that school children should be beaten.

“Pitai band ho jaane se schoolon mein padhai va anushashan ka mahaul khatm ho gaya hai (Discipline has ended since thrashing ended),” he had said at a school function.

Another minister, Raja Ram Pandey, who handles the khadi gramodyog portfolio, had created a storm, soon after the government was sworn in, over not being allotted the “bungalow of his choice”. He dished out statements against his own government and relented only when he was allotted his preferred house in the Raj Bhavan colony.

Revenue Minister Ambika Chowdhary hit the headlines, also for wrong reasons, when Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Upendra Tiwari accused him of ordering the bulldozing of houses in a village that did not vote for him. The matter was raked up in the state assembly also, much to the chagrin of the SP government.

Then there is Stamp and Court Fee Registration Minister Durga Prasad Yadav who has openly advocated his “right” to transfer officials in his department and has often complained about the lack of powers in public.

The first to embarrass the government was Mehboob Ali, silk and handicraft minister, when his overzealous supporters fired in public as he returned to his constituency Amroha. Amid criticism, he had gone on to justify the jubiliation and celebratory firing.

There are more.

Minister of State for Forests Shiv Pratap Singh Yadav has been accused of arm twisting government officials in Balrampur to give a tender floated by the social welfare department to his cronies.

Minister of State in PWD department Surendra Singh Patel has also openly aired his anger against his own government for not giving him “enough powers to transfer officials”.

Close aides of the chief minister admitted that the ministers were getting out of hand, but he had little choice but to bow down to their wishes as most had been handpicked by his father.

“With too many power centres and foot-in-the-mouth ministers, the biggest casualty is governance,” said a senior official.

Poor monsoon, power crisis, spiralling crime, communal clashes… errant ministers are only adding to Akhilesh Yadav’s many woes. Truly, the enemy within.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at [email protected])