This image was shot last night after a sumptuous Eid feast...
This appeared in Asian Age / Deccan Chronicle...
How Akhilesh blew it….
Like millions of Uttar Pradesh watchers, I was enthusiastic and hopeful when the decidedly dishy, 1973 born Akhilesh Yadav was sworn in as the State’s 20th ( and youngest) Chief Minister in 2012. He had pretty much everything going for him at the time, including youth and good looks. Add to that a decent education ( a Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering from Australia) and the overall package appeared pretty darn attractive. India was riding the crest of its youth wave back then, and much was expected from this chap who had successfully demoted Rahul Gandhi and the Gandhi parivaar, without much of an effort. Yes, there was the…. ummm… inconvenient business of being his controversial father’s son, but even if you were Pitaji Mulayam Singh’s harshest critic, you were tempted to give this bright eyed, bushy tailed lad a shot at reversing all that was foul in the state of U.P. The early days seemed more than promising. The newly minted Chief Minister was making all the right noises and strenuously trying to carve out a separate identity for himself. It was believed he’d succeed in cleaning up the rot – not immediately, but in due course. The common refrain was, “Give him a chance…” Which is why, Akhilesh Yadav really cannot turn around now and say he wasn’t given that – a fair chance. And then what happened? Well – in plain speak, he blew it. He f****d up. And last week, he conclusively proved he was no better than his father and several predecessors, when he reacted rudely and crudely to the suspension of an upright IAS officer - Durga Shakti Nagpal. His rather foolish response to her uncompromising stand against the sand mafia could have been dismissed for immaturity had it not signaled something far worse – unbridled arrogance. Durga Shakti Nagpal was merely doing her job when she became the target of an organized campaign to ‘punish’ her, like she was an errant school girl and not a well respected IAS officer on duty. What Akhilesh clearly had not factored in when he moved against Durga was the nation wide support she would receive. Even more than an overwhelming shabaashi from citizens, Durga’s case soon became a rallying point for her colleagues. It saw IAS officers across the board raising their voices against political pressure and demanding justice for Durga.
Sometimes, all it takes is one mistake for a leader to show his true colours. Durga was that mistake for Akhilesh. India had indulgently forgiven his earlier faux pas, big and small. People were ready to overlook those ill thought through populist schemes to distribute laptops and tablets ( it could as easily have been cars and credit cards) to his team. Carrots by any other name are still carrots. But when Akhilesh publicly chastised an upright bureaucrat, he went a tad too far. And opened up a new flank for his opponents to attack. It’s a mistake that’s likely to cause much damage to his Samajwadi Party in the long run. Because, with that single action of his, he has antagonized not just IAS officers but countless women and several right thinking men as well. Durga’s suspension and the charge sheet against her, have galvanized public opinion across India. U.P.’s track record when it comes to vindictive transfers of officers is staggeringly bad – take just one example : 43 IPS officers transferred over 40 times in their career. The reasons behind these and other transfers? The officers’ efficiency, integrity and a stubborn refusal to play ball with politicos.
Much was expected from Akhilesh Yadav (from 97 to 224 seats in the Vidhan Sabha is indeed a major coup). He was even being talked of as the next big thing – a future Prime Minister - dynamic, forceful and progressive in his thinking. In our enthusiasm we had conveniently forgotten the biggest influence in his life – his wily father. Today, Akhilesh himself has made it more than evident that he is indeed a chip of the old block. In fact, observers insist he is no more than Mulayam’s puppet, obediently carrying out Daddyji’s orders. If all goes according to plan, Mulayam himself is likely to emerge as an important player in the next Elections - a Prime Ministerial contender in his own right, no less. He has the money ( more than even Mayawati’s immense wealth). Experts say he has built up an impressive war chest with an eye on the top gaddi in India. And he sure has the clout. When crunch time comes (it could be as early as in September 2013), Mulayam will be a front runner, way ahead of the competition. Which is another reason why Akhilesh Yadav needs to exercise better judgment when it comes to touchy issues in his State. His shabby handling of the Durga Shakti case has exposed his politics and drawn attention to the lawlessness in Akhilesh-Pradesh. One of his lackeys had the nerve to suggest U.P. can do without IAS officers altogether. That shows how drunk local netas are on their own position and power. The minister was not sacked!
Young India is feeling let down and disappointed with this man called Akhilesh Yadav. There are no youth leaders anywhere on the horizon to begin with. There was Akhilesh… and then there is Rahul. One takes orders from Daddyji, the other from Mummyji. India has grown up. But these men clearly haven’t. More’s the pity.