THE SAMAJWADI Party had achieved a simple majority in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election in March, thus enabling party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav to install his son Akhilesh Yadav as the state’s youngest chief minister. However, after five months in power, Akhilesh is yet to prove his mettle as an administrator. Forced to work with a team of ‘uncles’ in the Cabinet, coupled with the power struggle within the first family, Akhilesh is facing tough challenges. Public Works and Irrigation Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav, who is said be sulking over his nephew’s elevation as chief minister, tells Virendra Nath Bhatt that it’s too early to make any judgement on the Akhilesh Yadav government.
EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
Even after five months of the SP government formation, Mulayam Singh Yadav remains the backseat driver. He has to come to the aid of his son to bolster his authority.
I don’t think so. Netaji (Mulayam) has given a free hand to Akhilesh. He never interferes in the affairs of the government and day-to-day administration. Even when Netaji was the CM, he never interfered in the work of his Cabinet colleagues. Have you ever seen Netaji with Akhilesh in Delhi or any other official engagement? But Netaji is the party president and he is within his rights to keep a watch on the government’s overall performance.
But you were not in favour of Akhilesh taking over as CM.
I didn’t oppose his candidature. But I felt that Netaji should have once again taken over the reins of the state. He is the head of the family and party and we all abide by his decisions, so it’s not an issue. Moreover, Akhilesh is like my son; he lived with me since his childhood and like any father, I wish him all the best.
How do you rate Akhilesh’s performance so far? Has he been able to prove his mettle as an administrator?
Akhilesh has become an established leader of the party. The SP’s rank and file favour that the Lok Sabha elections be fought under his leadership. He has made a good start. He is humble and accessible. I’m confident that the people of UP would endorse his leadership again in 2014.
It is said that there are multiple centres of power in the state government, which is adding to Akhilesh’s woes.
It’s a canard spread by our rivals. Akhilesh is in charge of the government and all the ministers take decisions after taking the CM into confidence and I’m no exception.
People have started comparing the Akhilesh regime with the Mayawati government on law and order, which seems to be deteriorating as communal violence has broken out in Mathura, Bareilly, etc. Do you think Akhilesh has been able to make any impact?
Akhilesh is in the process of making his impression felt across the state. It’s too early to make any judgement as he has been in office for hardly five months. I’m sure he will prove his mettle and lead UP on the path of prosperity.
Mulayam has chaired the meeting of the party’s state executive, MLAs, MPs, and ministers, followed by the meeting of the party office bearers asking them to pull up their socks and work to fulfil the aspirations of the people. Was it not an exercise to boost Akhilesh’s political authority?
It’s not that Netaji has to intervene to rescue the CM whenever he faces a political challenge. It’s the routine work of the organisation. The meeting of the party’s state executive was long overdue.
Akhilesh’s elevation has spurred a power struggle within your family. During the recent municipal elections in Etawah, Ram Gopal Yadav and Rajpal Singh Yadav fielded their own candidates.
The party had given a free hand and none was given the party symbol as the party had already decided that it would not contest the urban local body election on its symbol. Whoever won the election in Etawah was from the SP.
Are you grooming your son Aditya to join politics?
No, Aditya will not enter politics. I have stopped him from taking the plunge. My wife is also not in favour of him joining politics. Politics appears to be very attractive and charming from a distance but there is a lot of uncertainty.
Virendra Nath Bhatt is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.