After Azam barb, disquiet in SP out in open

By Mohit Dubey, IANS,

Lucknow : Blame it on a generation gap or simply differing styles, all is clearly not well within Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party (SP). After senior leader Azam Khan’s letter to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, spin doctors worked overtime Thursday to allay fears but insiders conceded to a certain disquiet.

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In a letter to Akhilesh Yadav sent Wednesday midnight, Khan offered to resign from the post of minister in-charge of Ghaziabad and Muzaffarnagar districts. Khan, who had been divested of Meerut, also wrote that if the chief minister thought he was not fit to be a minister, he could resign from the cabinet as well.

“It is obvious that certain ministers are not very comfortable with Akhilesh Bhaiyya as chief minister,” said a close aide of the chief minister.

Leaders who had rallied behind the 39-year-old chief minister at the “beckoning of the party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav” had started speaking their mind, he said.

“I would not say that daggers are out for the chief minister but yes here and there, opposing opinion is being raised on matters that are close to the chief minister. With Mulayam Singh Yadav not keeping too well for some time now, the party is in a state of flux,” a senior leader said.

“One has to understand that Netaji (Mulayam Singh) has a different standing and rapport with leaders like Azam Khan and Shivpal Yadav… The same is neither possible nor expected from Akhilesh Yadav,” he said, trying to explain the yawning generational gap.

There have been several instances pointing to the Akhilesh Yadav’s loose hold on the party.

Only recently, Azam Khan, the urban development minister, had attacked Health and Family Welfare Minister Ahmad Hasan indirectly for not posting doctors at the district hospital in his constituency Rampur.

Senior minister and Mulayam Singh’s brother Shivpal Yadav had kept away from a high-level party meeting.

Sources say while the chief minister is making efforts not to “rub seniors” on the wrong side, he “rarely goes out of the way to assuage their feelings in case of hurt”.

“That is his style, he is polite but beyond a point he can be rigid and tough when push comes to shove,” an aide said.

Azam Khan admitted to hurt in writing to the chief minister and said he wanted to state his feelings but had no intention of weakening the government.

“After great difficulties and fight we have got rid of a ‘zalim’ (criminal) government. Why will I try to rock the same government,” he said.

“Since the days of Netaji, I have held this post and hence felt slighted on being removed (as in-charge of Meerut),” he added.

The chief minister, who was in Kanpur Thursday, also tried to dismiss the resignation letter of Azam Khan as the creation of a media that needed to sell news. He, however, added that the hurt ministerial colleague would be attended to.

“No political meaning should be given to the matter. We will sort out things with Azam Khan,” Akhilesh Yadav said.

Political observers feel this could be only a temporary truce.

Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agarwal also tried to quell the controversy saying it was not an internal matter.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to seize the opportunity.

“The chief minister himself has admitted that the honeymoon is over and now it is delivery time… This government is set to go down in history as the biggest failure vis-a-vis expectations,” said BJP spokesperson Vijay Pathak.