Dear Akhilesh! Are you listening?
Very recently, on the first anniversary of the Samajwadi Party (SP) rule in Uttar Pradesh (UP), chief minister Akhilesh Yadav conceded that the state needed improvement in the law and order situation to make the state safer and secure for the general people. This was rather a bold statement from CM Akhilesh Yadav, considering the general perception that his state was ruled by proxy by the likes of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav, his two powerful brothers, Shiv Pal and Ram Gopal, and of course by the mercurial Azam Khan - a CM-to-be, waiting in the wings to strike.
One year having already passed out of the scheduled five-year mandate, it is now time for Akhilesh to assert and come out of the shadows of his father and uncles, and clear the gigantic mess the state is reeling under. His topmost priority should be to instil a feeling of confidence amongst the masses of UP that he, and he alone, is the boss and that the promises made by him during the polls' canvassing in 2011 and 2012 will be met. Public aspirations were raised during his cycling campaign that promised all-round development and safety. People then never realised that Akhilesh, once in power, will not have any say in the governance.
He can start by appealing to the people of Kunda to cooperate with the CBI investigation to expose the guilty in the murder case of DSP Zia-ul Haq. His appeal will augur well, reassuring the people that the accused ex-minister has no support or patronage of the CM. Once Akhilesh regains the confidence of impartiality and neutrality, he will be looked upon with further esteem. And once he overcomes this inhibition, half the battle will be won. He should be seen to be meaning well.
We know it is difficult for a young and inexperienced CM to disassociate himself from his political seniors, but it is 'now or never' for Akhilesh. He had outwitted the glamour and charisma of Rahul Gandhi in the last elections and he should now deliver. He should interact more closely with the police leadership on a regular basis and take stock of the law and order and crime situation. The state DGP and other senior officers should know that it's Akhilesh who is calling the shots and and that he means business. Recently, residents of two hostels at Allahabad University clashed violently and later there were scenes of vandalism in the aftermath of distribution of free laptop computers. Here was an opportunity for Akhilesh to pull the police up for dereliction of duties. Things will steadily come under control if he continues to throw his weight around. Once law and order is in check, he can focus on development projects.
If Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi can have the vision of modernising their states, Akhilesh, with his determination, can take UP to new heights. He has been above partisan and regional politics, plus he had an exposure in Australia and is known to be cosmopolitan. Development works on priority must be the task on hand. Reinforcing infrastructure, roads, means of communication, liberal education cutting across religious lines - are some of the areas which merit his personal attention. Akhilesh should also not be seen to be "appeasing" any particular community.
Tourism is another sector where UP, under Akhilesh can do wonders. Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Varanasi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Kaushambi, Kushinagar, Jhansi etc offer adequate tourism potential but this area remains a neglected lot. Tourists are most inconvenienced and harassed. There could be a separate Budhist circuit starting from Sarnath to Kushinagar. Thousands of tourists from Thailand, Cambodia, Japan and South Korea will visit UP, provided there are basic amenities and proper guides. Harassment of tourists as seen in Taj Mahal must be curbed. UP doesn't need an Amitabh Bachchan as its cultural Ambassador like in the previous rule of Mulayam with stale slogans like "....UP may hai dum...."
The administration should provide efficient governance, stable law and order, end of criminalised politics and development projects with steady supply of electricity. And it is not impossible for Akhilesh. He too has the will and courage to defy the wrong diktats of his veteran 'mentors'. I have perhaps been sermonising but as a senior citizen of UP, I am within my rights to advise Akhilesh to be a doer.
Mr chief minister, one year of your term is already gone. Another four will also go away in a jiffy. You are young and energetic, have a resolve and vision. Deliver now and liberate the huge state from corruption and crime. A missed opportunity will be very costly. Are you listening?
More about Shantanu Mukharji
Shantanu Mukharji joined the police in 1976 and was exposed to handling complex investigations and law and order situations, especially communal disturbances, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. With varied experience, he was deputed to various countries overseas for security related assignments. He was also with the elite SPG for seven years looking after VVIP security. A widely travelled officer with a diverse exposure, Mukharji also served the Cabinet Secretariat and Bureau of Security (MEA) in different capacities. A receipient of Indian Police Medal for Meritorious service and President's Police Medal for distinguished service, Shantanu Mukharji, after retirement from GoI, is now the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. He is a freelance writer in English and Hindi and focusses on topical issues.