The wheels are stuck

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Laptop fiasco Akhilesh Yadav scrapped the laptop scheme following the Lok Sabha poll debacle, Photo: AFP
Laptop fiasco Akhilesh Yadav scrapped the laptop scheme following the Lok Sabha poll debacle, Photo: AFP

The Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh recently completed the first half of its term in office. However, the party is currently going through a tough time partly due to the growing popularity of the BJP. In 2012, when Akhilesh Yadav became the state’s youngest chief minister, there was a feeling that it would herald a new era of good governance and development. After crossing the halfway mark, the hope has disappeared. Akhilesh is now struggling with the political challenges posed by the meteoric rise of the bjp, especially after the 2014 Lok Sabha election, where the saffron party alongwith its ally Apna Dal pocketed a whopping 73 seats out of 80 in UP.

Akhilesh is fond of criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for failing to usher in Acche din (good days) as promised by the latter during the campaign for the last ls polls. Akhilesh too had made many tall claims, but in the past 32 months in office, he has only laid the foundation stones of dozens of welfare and development schemes. Have those schemes and projects made any progress or were they left at that? A cursory look at those reveals that little or no progress has been made. A senior sp leader cynically commented that shilanyas (foundation stones) have become shila (stones), yielding nothing for the party and the people of the state.

Coupled with non-performance, the revelation of a huge scam running into thousands of crores in Noida, involving the chief engineer Yadav Singh, said to be a blue-eyed boy of Akhilesh, has added to the discomfiture of the SP government. Besides, the open fight between two Cabinet ministers over the scam pertaining to the construction of check dams in the state has added to the woes of the cm. Minister of Technical Education Shivkant Ojha, a native of Pratapgarh district, alleged in a letter to the CM that the check dams built in his district were sub-standard and blamed Minor Irrigation Minister RK Singh for the bungling. Singh, known as an upstart in politics, contradicted the charges levelled by his colleague. Instead of acting on the complaint, Akhilesh removed the principal secretary of the department, SP Singh, for ordering the stopping of payments to contractors.

“The Noida and check dam issues have seriously dented the image of the party and the government. The general impression is that the government has gone soft on corruption. Corruption and the myriad foundation stones laid by the CM and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will prove to be the Achilles heel for the Samajwadi Party in 2017 Assembly election,’’ says a minister.

In March 2012, the SP had for the first time, since its inception in October 1992, formed the government on its own by winning 224 of the 403 seats in the UP Assembly. Akhilesh Yadav had also promised to give unemployment allowance to the jobless youth and free laptops to the students who passed 12th standard. After coming a cropper in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the CM dumped both the schemes in the 2014-15 Budget. The move came after spending over Rs 10,000 crore from the state exchequer for the ­laptops and unemployment allowance. In a ­classic case of “the dog ate my home work’’, ­Mulayam Singh publicly ­ridiculed his son for the laptop scheme. The SP chief claimed that the party lost the parliamentary election due to the ­laptops as the youngsters watched the public meetings of Narendra Modi on them.

The situation has become so hopeless for the Samajwadi Party that it is forced to follow the agenda of its arch rival, the BJP. Even as the Assembly election is two years away, the shape and features of the next government in the state is dominating the agenda of the public discourse. “Never before in the history of UP had any political party or government faced this kind of political challenge more than two years before an Assembly election. It’s a good sign that the SP government has realised this challenge well in time and can still convince the electorate by 2017 that it is second to none in the matter of development of the state,” says Ashutosh Mishra, a professor in the political science department of Lucknow University. “In fact, fighting the BJP on the plank of development is the only option left before Akhilesh.’’

Tough battle The Samajwadi Party will have to deal not just with a rising BJP but also strong anti-incumbency in the 2017 Assembly election, Photo: Pramod Adhikari
Tough battle The Samajwadi Party will have to deal not just with a rising BJP but also strong anti-incumbency in the 2017 Assembly election, Photo: Pramod Adhikari

The Akhilesh Yadav government has also been slack in utilising the budgetary funds allocated to different sectors of the economy for the current fiscal, 2014-15. In departments such as urban development, power, secondary education, minority welfare, primary education and social welfare, the utilisation is between 3 percent and 29 percent. Despite this, the SP on 18 November sought the ­approval of the state legislature for a ­supplementary Budget of Rs 14,856 crore. “The huge supplementary grants are dictated more by the political compulsions of the state government than economics, as it’s simply not possible to utilise the huge grants in the last quarter of the current fiscal,” says a senior official of the finance department.

Recently, Mulayam Singh, acting more as a devil’s advocate than the father of the still-fledgling chief minister, lashed out at the state government for its rank non-performance. The Samajwadi Party chief said, “Tumhari sarkaar me sirf shilanyas ho rahe hain, udghatan kyon nahi (Only foundation stones are being laid by your government. Why are no projects being inaugurated?)”

The SP chief, while laying the foundation stone for the much-publicised Agra-Lucknow expressway, went to the extent of labelling all the ministers and senior bureaucrats as terribly corrupt. Mulayam Singh alleged that the ministers and senior bureaucrats have little time for looking after their respective departments. “Ministers have no time to supervise the work of their departments as they are busy minting money through cuts/commission in government contracts,”  he said.

However, no one is willing to be impressed by the Samajwadi Party chief’s bitter criticism and public censure of his son and the ministers. “He has done this many times since the SP government came to power in March 2012. It’s now being viewed as a move to blunt the edge of opposition rather than a serious attempt to improve the efficiency of the government headed by his son,’’ says a political analyst.

Mulayam Singh also warned the  ministers to pull up their socks or risk being sacked. Recalling a meeting  with the ministers of the Akhilesh Yadav  government prior to the 2014 General Election, the Samajwadi Party chief
said, “I had then asked each minister to report at least one unique achievement after six months. The deadline has long gone but I am still waiting. All the ministers are inefficient and non-performers. It’s better to sack and replace them with performers.”

“It’s a classic case of dynasty politics. When the family patriarch gets older, the succession war starts. The SP is no exception,” says Ashutosh Mishra. “The family, the SP’s unifying factor, has turned into its own adversary. The family has become the fundamental fault line in intra-party  affairs. It has led to a policy paralysis in the state. This is corroborated by the series  of statements by Mulayam Singh pulling up his son, the MLAs and the ministers for non-performance and ignoring the  party cadres.”

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Promises galore, not much to show

From an IT city to a vodka plant, none of the ambitious projects announced by Akhilesh Yadav have really taken off

• In March 2012, a 1,200-acre high-tech industrial city project was announced. The industrial city would have been set up in the Trans Ganga area of Kanpur. It was supposed to have a wide variety of industries, ranging from IT and IT-enabled services to business process outsourcing, financial institutions and hotels. The project remains a non-starter.

• A 100-acre IT city in Kanpur is another embarrassment for Akhilesh. Even after two years, the government could not find an investor. The work is yet to begin on the project. Also planned were a super specialty cancer hospital and a super specialty cardiology hospital at the same site. So far there has been no headway on both the projects.

• A mega leather cluster in Sandila of Hardoi district was also announced with much fanfare. The greenfield leather project to be spread over 900 acres along the Lucknow-Delhi rail route could not proceed beyond the drawing board stage. The project costing Rs 400 crore was expected to attract investment worth Rs 2,000 crore with a potential to generate 10,000 jobs. The UPA-2 government in June 2013 had given the environmental clearance with the condition of zero discharge. The project was scheduled to be commissioned by June 2015.

• Integrated Plastic Park status for Auraiya plastic city is another dream that never materialised. This project was planned on NH-2 , 50 km ahead of Etawah, the home town of the ruling Yadav clan of UP. It had earmarked 225 acres for the industrial area and 89 acres for the residential township, banks, schools and other facilities.

• A vodka plant with an investment of Rs 800 crore was also planned at Kannauj, Dimple Yadav’s parliamentary constituency. It was to be set up by the UP State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) with the help of a Russian-based liquor company on 120 acres of land.

• An ethanol biomass energy project and a maize processing plant with an investment of Rs 108 crore were also proposed. Approvals for the projects were given by the state government in February. An official of the Horticulture and Food Processing Department claimed that the process is underway and work may begin soon.

• To showcase the state’s rich heritage and bring tourists to heritage sites, the UP Cabinet had approved the heritage tourism policy in July 2014. Concessions on taxes such as hospitality tax, entertainment tax, stamp duty, excise license for bar and transport fee for former royal families were included in the policy. The scheme has not taken off so far.

• Intrastate air service policy was formulated by the government early this year and announced in June. In the first phase, the aim of the policy was to link the state capital Lucknow with Allahabad, Varanasi, Agra, Moradabad, Meerut, Gorakhpur, Chitrakoot and Kushinagar. The air service is yet to take off. The UP Tourism Corporation, the nodal agency, has no clue as to when the service is expected to commence.

• With the aim of empowering the minorities, particularly the Muslims, the Akhilesh Yadav government in August 2013 announced that in 85 development and welfare schemes, 20 percent of the total outlay will be earmarked for the minorities. More than a year has passed but nobody in the government has any clue about the scheme. Announcement of this scheme ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election immensely benefited the BJP, as it accused the SP government of indulging in unabashed Muslim appeasement.

• An international airport at Agra was another dream project of Akhilesh that is as good as over. The Centre has refused approval for the project, as an important base of the Indian Air Force is located nearby. However, the CM has written to the Centre for reconsideration.

• Within days of taking over as cm, Akhilesh had promised 22-24-hour power supply across the state within two years. The deadline was later extended to January 2016. Now, the cm has promised 22-hour power supply to all towns with religious significance and tourism potential. The MoUs signed for as many as 15 power projects with installed capacity of 15,000 MW have not moved beyond the drawing board.

• In 2012, Akhilesh Yadav had promised to provide free battery-powered rickshaws. A few rickshaws were given in February 2013. For nearly two years, the process of purchasing the rickshaws through tenders has been stuck in red tape and the process is still far from complete.

• Modernisation of the police force is another flagship project that has made no headway. The project requires more than Rs 6,700 crore, including the purchase of modern weaponry. The state government sought funds from the Centre and later from the 14th Finance Commission. The costs include Rs 5,339 crore for the construction of barracks and residential buildings for the police personnel.

• In the Budgets for three successive financial years — 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 — provision was made for the purchase and free distribution of blankets and sarees to people in BPL category. In the current fiscal, a sum of Rs 800 crore is available for the purchase of 2.1 crore blankets and 57 lakh sarees. It’s common knowledge in Lucknow that the panchyati raj minister, who is to implement the scheme, has not been able to find the ‘right kind’ of supplier for both the commodities. For the past three fiscal years, no purchases have been made.

• In September 2012, a foundation stone was laid for the construction of a dairy with an installed capacity of processing 5 lakh litres of milk per day. The cm had also laid the foundation stone of a dairy in Kanpur with a capacity of processing 10 lakh litres of milk per day. Both the projects are much behind schedule and the government is trying to rope in Amul to speed up the process.

• Term loan scheme for the minority community implemented with financial assistance from the Centre was scrapped in 1996. The SP government had promised to revive the scheme where loans are given to small businesses and entrepreneurs by the UP Minority Welfare Corporation at concessional rates of interest.

• The SP government had promised aid to madrasas and to bring more madrasas under the state’s aid list. The Madrasa Education Board was constituted early this year and later dissolved. Not a single madrasa has been added in the state’s aid list since the SP assumed power in 2012.

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