Has Akhilesh emerged from his father’s shadow?

By Mohit Dubey

Lucknow : Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav may be finally moving out of the long shadow of his towering father and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

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For most of his four-year tenure (with another year to go), he has been dogged by accusations of being a “puppet CM”. But the 43-year-old has of late has side-stepped pressure from his father and his powerful uncles – PWD Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Gopal Yadav.

Informed sources say Yadav junior is not only asserting himself in matters of governance but is also putting his weight in party matters.

His opposition to the merger of mafia don-turned-legislator Mukhtar Ansari’s Quami Ekta Dal into the Samajwadi Party is an example. He is also increasingly pro-active.

“His image and that of the government is very important for ‘Bhaiyyaji’,” a close aide said, adding the Chief Minister was now exercising his mind on most bureaucratic transfers and fending off pressure from his ambitious uncles.

Thus, a powerful IAS officer in his Secretariat, a protege of his father and who Akhilesh often referred to as “Auntie” in his early days of power, has now been put in place.

Bureaucrats have been told that only good governance will be counted.

Shunting out of a senior IAS officer some time back is said to be an indicator that any roadblock in the development schemes will be punished, said a senior bureaucrat privy to the axing.

Simultaneously, Akhilesh Yadav is rewarding talent, picking up good officials — both young and veterans — to craft his image as a development-oriented leader. Ministers are dropped at his will is they do not perform.

It is not surprising that while most of the 75 districts have young officials as district magistrates and police chiefs, retired chief secretary Alok Ranjan has been given the task of a cabinet minister and is tasked with monitoring the projects that kicked off under Akhilesh Yadav’s watch.

Officials say he is working more than earlier times.

He picked his favourites for the legislative council elections and got them through. His team of young politicians is said to work overtime. A youth brigade has been assigned to work through the social media.

Media bigwigs close to ‘Netaji’ (Mulayam) have been put in their place. Recommendations from the father are often ignored. Akhilesh trusts his own instincts when it comes to media interactions.

Those in the know say his close team is screening the probable candidates for the 2017 state assembly elections.

But does this mean disrespect for Mulayam? Indeed, Akhilesh has trashed assumptions that he is daggers drawn with Yadav senior.

Responding to a public rebuke by his father, Akhilesh said it was a father’s right to chide his son. “He is my father other than being the Samajwadi Party chief. I see no wrong if he airs his thoughts, even publicly.”

On two public occasions, he was seen as a doting son — once when the father tripped in slush and when he was seen rushing for a towel to clean his father’s hand after he had cut a cake at a birthday party.

Politically, however, the father and son seem to be drifting apart. Mulayam believes in keeping pace with old timers and accommodating them. Akhilesh doesn’t agree.

“The Mulayam era is certainly on the ebb,” says an old friend of Mulayam Singh Yadav not wishing to be named.