In yet another blatant U-turn within 24 hours, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday revoked his earlier order to placate Urban Development Minister Azam Khan who threatened to resign because of being abruptly divested of the charge of Meerut district in addition to his routine duties.
While Akhilesh as well as his father Mulayam Singh Yadav chose to avoid the media, top Samajwadi Party sources confirmed late on Thursday evening that Wednesday's order to pull out Azam from the charge of Meerut stood revoked following intervention of the father.
"Meerut district will continue to remain with Azam saheb, who was also in charge of Ghaziabad and Muzaffarnagar districts as a part of the chief minister's policy to entrust a cluster of districts to different ministers," said a party source.
Azam Khan was, however, not available for comment as he was said to be travelling to Rampur, his home district and constituency.
It was an open secret that Akhilesh's decision was prompted by complaints against Azam by none other than Shahid Manzoor, a very junior minister belonging to Meerut.
Manzoor was stated to have alleged that he was often humiliated by Azam.
However, the chief minister's unilateral decision seriously offended Azam, who instantly shot off a letter to him, offering to step down.
"Agar meri qaabiliyat mein itnee kamee hai ki main Meerut ka prabhari mantra naheen rah sakta hoon...toh Ghaziabad aur Muzaffarnagar bhi bahut mahatwapoorn zile hain ...unke prabhari mantri pad se bhi aap mujhe hata sakte hain. Aur agar aap ko lagta hai ki mere andar mantri banne kee bhi qabkiyat naheen hai to main sarkar pe bojh ban ke mantri bane rahna naheen chahta." (If I am so incapable that I cannot remain minister in charge of Meerut district, then let me tell you that Ghaziabad and Muzaffarnagar are also equally important districts, so please feel free to remove me from the charge of those districts too. And in case you feel that I do not have the capability to remain a minister, then I would not like to remain a burden as a minister of your government, Azam stated explicitly in his letter.
As the news hit the headlines, a chagrined SP leadership went about blaming it all on the media for "making a mountain out of a mole hill."
However, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was understood to have intervened to pacify the estranged minister, who was not only among the founders of the party but also the party's Muslim mascot, who was known for being blunt and a man of integrity. Mulayam was stated to have also reprimanded his son for his abrupt decision to remove Azam from the charge of Meerut on a complaint by a junior minister. Eventually, by evening, the chief minister withdrew his order.
Analysts feel that Alhilesh, who was otherwise being seen as a "weak" chief minister on account of his failure to assert himself on very many issues, chose to take the drastic step against Azam so that he could prove that he was actually in command. Perhaps the idea was to erase the common impression that there were several parallel power centres and to establish that he alone was calling the shots.
However, far from achieving that objective, the chief minister ended up only reinforcing that he was capable of taking half-baked decisions as he was ready to revoke them once he was made to realise his mistake. Not very long ago he had made an announcement on the floor of the state assembly to authorise each of UP's 503 legislators to purchase a vehicle up to Rs 20 lakh out of his constituency development fund, but the order was revoked within 24 hours. Earlier, having failed to tackle the escalating power crisis in the state, he ordered closure of all markets and malls at 7 pm. However, in the wake of widespread criticism and resentment he had to revoke the decision.