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.
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)
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@example.com)