Newly-appointed UP Governor Aziz Qureshi’s decision to throw open the gates of Lucknow Raj Bhavan to the common man has clearly irked ruling Samajwadi Party and staunch rival BJP. Sharat Pradhan reports.
The Samajwadi Party and Bharti Janata Party may not see eye to eye on most issues but newly-appointed Uttar Pradesh Governor Aziz Qureshi’s outreach to the common man has clearly chagrined both.
No sooner than he was sworn in earlier this week to look after the country’s most populous state in addition to Uttarakhand where he was a substantive governor, Qureshi chose to throw open the doors of Lucknow Raj Bhawan to the man on the street.
BJP state president Laxmi Kant Bajpai was the first to react quite adversely to the move. He not only questioned Qureshi’s decision but also began to impute motives to it. “Governors are entitled to hold ‘janata durbar’ (people’s meeting) in Raj Bhawans only when President’s Rule is in force; I wish to ask the governor to review his decision or else he should clarify if he was considering imposition of President’s Rule in the state”, blurted out Bajpai.
Quereshi however made it loud and clear, “All I have done is to throw open the doors of the Governor’s House to the common man, who is surely entitled to have an audience with the state governor. I do not need to seek anybody’s permission to meet common people of the state. I do not believe in holding ‘janta durbar’. I simply believe in making myself accessible to the most ordinary man on the street. That is something I did in Uttarakhand where everyone has taken it in good stead. Even BJP leaders have never objected to it there. I fail to understand why some people have reservations about it.”
Several top SP leaders too see reason in Bajpai’s argument. While none were willing to go on record, they felt “it was strange for a governor to be getting into a chief minister’s shoes”.
A minister in the Akhilesh government wondered, “Why the new governor is unnecessarily trying to be populist when he knows that he is only holding additional charge of UP where his stint is bound to be brief.”
Interestingly, while being so particular about questioning the governor for giving open audience to all and sundry, Bajpai has never cared to ask why Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was always busy avoiding his much publicised ‘janata durbars’.
Akhilesh was prompt in reviving the chief minister’s traditional ‘janata darbar’ soon after he assumed power in March 2012. It was a welcome move as his predecessor Mayawati had completely done away with the democratic practice started by the state’s first chief minister Gobind Ballabh Pant. But within a year, he reduced the frequency of the ‘durbar’ -- from five days a week to one day a week.
What followed in the second year was further scaling it down to barely once a month. And even that was extremely irregular which gave the impression that Akhilesh was, more often than not, looking for excuses to avoid the ‘janata durbar.’
It is said that he agreed to fall in line with the advise of some bureaucrats close to him, who termed the ‘janata durbar’ as “sheer waste of time”.
A senior IAS officer widely known for his proximity to the chief minister was heard telling him, “What is the point in holding ‘janata durbars’ where people are only making demands which cannot be fulfilled.”
And that leaves Akhilesh sufficient time to be spent with partymen, particularly from home in Etawah or Kannauj, his wife Dimple’s parliamentary constituency.
While breaking away from the tradition and earmarking two hours every day for meeting common public, Governor Qureshi has also made it a point to declare that he does not believe or practice the typical “laat sahib” culture of Raj Bhawans.
“The ‘laat saheb’ culture was bred by the British. It is high time we gave up those conventions and behave more like a people’s man so that one would have closer insight into the ground realities of the state and its people.”
Image: Governor Aziz Qureshi