After rolling out a whole lot of sops for the young and old alike in fulfillment of his Samajwadi Party's election promises, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has found a novel way to appease the state's 500-odd legislators.
The state's youngest chief minister, who is also the elder son of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, on Tuesday declared in the state assembly that all MLAs and MLCs would be entitled to purchase a luxury vehicle up to a price of Rs. 20 lakhs out of their respective constituency fund.
As if that was not enough, the state government also intends to give the ownership of the vehicle to every legislator at a deprecated price after five years.
The announcement came just before the assembly was adjourned sine die after passing of the annual budget. It evoked cheers from the treasury benches, but what left the ruling party completely nonplussed was the stiff opposition by the Bhartiya Janata Party as well as the Bahujan Samaj Party.
"This is gross misuse of the constituency development fund and let me declare on the floor of the august House that BJP members will shun purchase of vehicles from the fund," declared BJP leader Hukum Singh.
Taking the cue from him, BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya (also leader of the opposition) flayed the government for "promoting blatant misuse of constituency fund."
Congress leader Pramod Tiwari too rose to criticise the move. He, however, hastened to add, "Well if the state government wants to extend this facility to the legislators, it should make a separate provision in the budget."
Tiwari's suggestion came as Godsend to Akhilesh, who promptly announced a hike in the legislators' constituency fund from Rs 1.25 crore to Rs 1.5 crore.
And while extending a quantum jump of Rs 25 lakhs, the chief minister went on to add, "Well, there is no binding on the honourable legislators, who will be free to use this option of purchasing a vehicle out of the enhanced fund."
Hukum Singh was still not convinced and felt, "since the vehicle would still be purchased out of the constituency fund, even purchase made out of one's personal resources was likely to be misconstrued and people would still accuse legislators of misusing the constituency development fund."