Is Uttar Pradesh slipping out of Akhilesh's hands?

Is Uttar Pradesh slipping out of Akhilesh's hands?

Is Uttar Pradesh slipping out of Akhilesh Yadav's hands? Even as the beseiged 41-year-old chief minister firefights criticism in the aftermath of the Lok Sabha drubbing  the Samajwadi Party (SP) received last month, the jury is out on his possible eclipse by his overbearing uncles and  demanding father and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

And so, even as he tries hard to infuse some semblance of control in the moribund  bureaucracy and party leadership, changing his cabinet colleagues,  sacking ministers and transferring bureaucrats, it appears to be too little and too late. That Akhilesh Yadav is slowly being sidelined from  important decision-making was evident on Friday when in his third budget,  he was "coerced" to bury his pet projects - Kanya Vidya Dhan, free  laptops to those clearing Class 12 and an unemployment allowance - for which no  funds were allotted for 2014-15.

This is a significant signal from the SP leadership, admits a state leader close to the chief minister. While there have been charges of  backseat driving ever since the environment engineer-turned-politician took over as the state's youngest chief minister in 2012, the budget this time round is the most "emphatic document" of the  SP leadership's "restlessness and open assertiveness" against  Akhilesh Yadav's scheme of things and style of functioning, said a knowledgeable source.

State BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak dittoed this. "There  cannot be a sharper and clearer rebuke for Akhilesh Yadav than the  scrapping of his free laptop project, something on which he swept to  power with 224 of the 403 seats in 2012," he pointed out. Yadav senior was  never comfortable with the laptop dole and, at the first opportunity, called for its shelving.

A few days ago, Mining Minister Gayatri Prajapati had spoken openly of  the need to do away with the scheme, only to be ticked by the chief  minister who said it was the "personal opinion" of his cabinet colleague.   Two weeks down, Akhilesh Yadav had to eat the humble pie and yield to the party leadership's diktat.

The party agreed that these schemes had not helped it electorally and needed to be buried.

Akhilesh Yadav is also being blamed for  the drift in the bureaucracy. "The chief  minister is a nice boss but not a tough task master."  a senior IAS officer noted, adding that most officials take him "lightly and non-seriously".

More than 250 IAS, IPS, PCS and PPS officials have been transferred in  the last one month.

"By sacking officials and transferring them for a spurt in crimes is not an answer. He himself holds the home  portfolio in which case he himself should quit," said Swamy Prasad  Maurya of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and leader of the opposition  in the state assembly.

The government under Akhilesh Yadav is sinking fast and would be decimated  in the 2017 assembly polls," Maurya told IANS, scoffing at the claims of good governance.
Politically too Akhilesh Yadav's  leadership has failed to inspire confidence in the cadres. He holds the  state president's post and the recent poor showing at the Lok Sabha polls cannot be glossed over, a senior SP leader said.

A resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), fresh from its landslide of 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, is breathing down the  government's neck, holding demonstrations on the power crisis gripping the  state and plunging the state assembly into turmoil over failing law and  order in the state. The SP could manage only five, with the Congress and the Aapna Dal claiming two each.

Akhilesh Yadav's ambitious plans for infrastructure development too  have not borne enough fruit. The IT city in Lucknow got delayed for  several months for want of bidders, the eight-lane "game changer"  expressway between Agra and Lucknow remained a non-starter with private  companies not showing interest, forcing the state government to take it in  its own hands. The project has been allocated more than Rs.3,000 crore in the 2014-15 budget.

IT companies are seething in anger with the shelving of the laptop  scheme, while  another ambitious scheme of free tablet PCs for those who clear Class 10 pass never saw the light of the day.

The exit of a friendly governor from Raj Bhavan and a "hostile" government taking over in Delhi are added worries that Akhilesh Yadav will have to  contend with.  With such odds stacked against him, recent pronouncements  of police modernization, overhaul of the power sector and re-energizing  the bureaucracy look hollow and worthless for now! The only  consolation: assembly polls are still two years away.

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