Don't Forget on your Success Depends Survival of Young Leadership Experiment
I’m sure you are well aware that a large number of young voters are feeling betrayed. The diabolic suspension of Durga Shakti Nagpal, a young, brilliant IAS officer, for taking on the sand mafia has unmasked the dark side of your administration. Political vendettas, humiliation of civil servants, threatening abuse from Samajwadi Party satraps and the brutal killings of political leaders have marred your personal image. You still come across as one of the country’s most affable chief ministers. But your government is perceived as the most chaotic in India. It is one lacking an assertive leader. You may have fulfilled your promise to give young voters free laptops with Internet connections. But they aren’t able to reconcile your modern mind with your government’s autocratic actions. When you took over two years ago, the 180 million people of Uttar Pradesh saw in India’s youngest Chief Minister a catalyst for change.
I have seen you grow up in the Yadav clan, dominated by caste considerations. Your father Mulayam Singh Yadav sent you to tony schools and also abroad for better education in the hope that you would turn out to be the game-changer for the parivar and the state. He made you the SP state president to lead the party in the Assembly elections. You cycled through the dust and heat of the caste-ridden, communally volatile state. Your red cap, black waistcoat and bicycle became the symbol of change, which the voters were looking forward to. You proved wrong the elitist propagandists—who were pitching for a coalition government—by winning a record number of seats any regional party has ever won in Uttar Pradesh. Just a few weeks before the elections, when I interviewed you for my show Teekhi Baat for IBN7, you were surprised about being given such prominence. My media colleagues laughed at my choice of the 38-year-old budding politician who would never make it to chief minister’s chair. Soon, they had to eat their words and chase you for interviews. You were candid and assertive. You assured viewers that you wouldn’t allow party cadres to dictate terms to the government. You promised to erase the SP’s goonda raj image in the state and that civil servants would be given full freedom from interference. Finally, you vowed that if voted to absolute power, your party would follow growth-driven policies. Not only Uttar Pradesh but also the entire country was expecting a marvellous model of modern governance from the youngest chief minister of India’s most populous state. Sadly, you have now been compelled to forget your promises and stick to the conventional politics of patronage. Like another young chief minister, Jammu and Kashmir’s Omar Abdullah, you were also chosen to lead the state in a midnight operation. Omar, by his pathetic performance, has proved beyond doubt that dynastic succession doesn’t ensure success in governance. But you were expected to justify dynastic politics by excelling in delivery and not retain the hidden traits of feudal machinations.
The past 17 months seem to have taken a toll not only on your political acumen but also on your determination to deliver on promises. Though your ascension was a hereditary transition of power from a father to a son, it was meant to change the direction, dialogue and the development tapestry of the state. Soon after you took over, some Samajwadi goons went on a rampage—attacking officials, extracting ransom from innocents and grabbing land. Suddenly, an Akhilesh Sena comprising lumpen elements had popped up, which started to threaten opponents with violence. You disbanded it quickly and ordered some of them arrested.
Unfortunately, it is the only visible action you have taken as chief minister. Since then, your ability and credibility seem to have eroded. Sometimes, your own admirers compare you with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is in the chair but not in power. Unlike other SP leaders, you still enjoy a clean image. You haven’t promoted factionalism within the party, but you haven’t acted against the dirty politics which is destroying your image either. Your ministers and party leaders openly abuse civil servants, patronise dons and mafias and help illegal commercial activities. You are told that the bureaucracy is out to destabilise your government by creating caste and communal tensions. Your counsellors are taking advantage of SP’s multiple power centres. Many decisions taken in the morning are reversed by the evening by other ‘unknown’ powers. Recently, the transfers of over a dozen senior officials ordered and approved by you were put in abeyance as soon as you took off from Lucknow for an official visit to the south. These nefarious forces have taken full advantage of your silence and inaction for their deeds and misdeeds. They haven’t allowed you to declare your agenda for governance. Your government hasn’t been able to attract any major investments. It hasn’t started any new infrastructure projects. The ‘cabal that shall not be named’ has made you a captive chief minister who is unwilling to disrupt the existing power structure. It is because of this scary scenario that many senior and excellent civil servants posted at the Centre and other states are unwilling to stay in UP. Bureaucrats in your state are unwilling to take decisions and have stopped processing even normal administrative files. Most of your MLAs and MPs, while appreciating your anguish, are disillusioned by your inaction and indifference. They feel that you are now a reluctant chief minister who is willing to compromise but not fight. Don’t forget that leaders of your age group have a bigger stake in the state’s future than the old netas who have won by dividing people and not socially and economically empowering them. Don’t forget that in your success depends the survival of the Young Leadership experiment. Your failure will only ensure the perpetuation of the old and tired leadership.
(Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla. Or, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)