Under attack from the opposition, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday made a U-turn on his decision to allow MLAs to purchase four-wheelers worth up to Rs 20 lakh out of their local area development fund.
"I take back the decision now. I take back the whole decision... The reason behind this is that most of the MLAs have decided not to take the offer after the media hype," he told reporters at his residence in Lucknow.
Seeking to defend the move to allow MLAs to buy four-wheelers worth upto Rs 20 lakh and pay their depreciated value after five years to retain them, he said, "There are many MLAs who can't afford cars...The order was not for all, it was not compulsory for everyone to take the offer."
"There are some MLAs who use 7-8 year old cars to go around their constituencies," he noted.
The announcement in the state assembly by the chief minister on Tuesday had sparked protests from Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress leaders who said the move would send a wrong message as the money to be used for buying the vehicles would come from MLAs' local area development fund.
The chief minister had said, "Despite a financial crisis, the SP government has fulfilled all the promises it made in the party manifesto in the budget. MLAs are allowed to purchase vehicles upto Rs 20 lakh from their local area development fund".
He had said that value of the vehicle will be depreciated every year and at the end of five years, the MLAs could deposit the depreciated amount to retain the vehicle or otherwise hand it over to the government.
"This will help MLAs who do not have money to buy a vehicle", Yadav had said, adding the government would not pay for maintenance of the vehicle.
He had also announced the decision to hike the MLA fund by Rs 25 lakh from Rs 1.25 crore to Rs 1.50 crore.
"It was for once in five years that the MLAs could have bought vehicles to facilitate development work in their areas", Yadav said.
"A strong opposition makes democracy strong ... The role of the opposition is to give suggestions and it is also the responsibility of the government to accept good suggestions", he said.
BJP leader Hukum Singh had said on Tuesday, "The decision to buy vehicles will not send a good message to the electorate. Even MLAs buying vehicles with their own money would look as if they have used public money for the purpose. We, BJP members, will not purchase vehicles with money from the development fund".
BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya had said the decision would not send a good message to the public and maintained that alternative arrangements would be made by the party for the purpose of purchasing vehicles.
"BSP members will not be utilising their development fund for buying vehicles," Maurya had said.
Congress leader Pramod Tiwari had aired similar views and said that the chief minister should increase the MLA area development fund and reminded him about the announcement in this regard made by SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav in the House in 2007.