Mulayam’s game, Akhilesh’s bane

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Reporter's Diary

Team Akhilesh is now keeping a close watch on the party patriarch’s movements and journalists are not allowed to meet him in Lucknow.

It seems that the family drama will continue not only through the elections but also after that.

Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav is making his son Akhilesh Yadav’s blood pressure fluctuate drastically from his antics! Ever since his own son ousted him from the position of party chief, the veteran socialist leader has been unable to come to terms with the fact that he has nothing left to do. At regular intervals, he calls over a news agency and reads out a statement that is invariably designed to damage his son in the midst of elections. Team Akhilesh is now keeping a close watch on the party patriarch’s movements and journalists are not allowed to meet him in Lucknow — perhaps the only way to keep out trouble.

Mulayam Singh now has found a way out of the situation. He flies to Delhi, reads out his statement to a news agency and returns to Lucknow. Akhilesh and his team are then left to clean the mess. Just when Akhilesh thought that his father’s anger had started subsiding and announced that Mulayam Singh would soon be campaigning for the party, the Lok Dal — a party that is happily doling out tickets to all SP rejects and rebels — sprung a surprise by naming Mulayam Singh as its star campaigner. It seems that the family drama will continue not only through the elections but also after that.

NO publicity is good publicity!
It seems wisdom has finally dawned upon beleaguered Madhya Pradesh higher education minister Sanjay Pathak. Ever since the Katni hawala racket in which his name was dragged surfaced in November last year, the richest legislator of MP spared no efforts to wriggle out the controversy. The chain of events that followed the exposure of the scandal had put him on the back foot. The scam involved operation of bogus accounts in a local bank branch in his hometown of Katni in MP. Katni district’s superintendent of police Gaurav Tiwari, who unearthed the racket, was suddenly transferred. The Congress raised a hue and cry alleging a coverup operation by the state government to shield Mr Pathak.

Mr Tiwari’s transfer to Chhindwara district barely within six months of becoming SP had also sparked a popular agitation in the town threatening to erode Mr Pathak’s electoral base. In a bid to refurbish his image, Mr Pathak launched a series of public relations moves. He first led a motorcycle rally in Katni to counter the “mass uprising”. When that didn’t help, he turned to the media to plead his innocence. This plan boomeranged on him as he invited even more negative publicity. He then withdrew from the glare of the media and the controversy has since then simply petered out. “We have finally realised no publicity is good publicity”, his supporters quipped.

Flawless retaliation
Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik is not a person to be cowed down either by his own partymen or rivals, even during a time of crisis. When the CBI recently conducted raids on the residences and offices of his party leaders, he restrained himself and did not utter a single word. However, he ensured that he did not remain silent and prepared a counter-offensive. As grapevine has it, hours after the CBI raids, Mr Patnaik summoned his “most dependable” officers to his residence and sought their suggestions on counter-offensives.

Within 24 hours of the raids, the state vigilance department conducted raids on Union minister for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan’s brother’s gas agency and several other petrol pumps run by people supported by the BJP, sending a strong message that if the CBI raids the regional BJD leaders’ houses, the state vigilance department would conduct search operations in BJP leaders’ residences. Mission accomplished, Mr Patnaik sent his party’s muscle man and state agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy to face the media and clarify the government action. “You people better understand what is happening now. The BJP is not the sole political party who can do what it wants,” Mr Maharathy thundered.

Walk the talk
Of late the BJP government, following the advice of Assam governor Banwarilal Purohit, directed state government officials to refrain from holding any government function or media interaction in five-star hotels. A day after the announcement, former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi welcomed the measures but questioned Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal using the five-star category state guest house meant for VVIPs as his residence.

He added that charity must begin at home. Although Mr Sonowal is yet to respond, it is said some astrologer has identified the guesthouse as one of the best places for him to reside. Mr Gogoi, who also converted a guesthouse into his residence when he came to power in 2001, however, clarified that he occupied a poorly-maintained and abandoned guesthouse on Koinadhara hills. “It was never a star category guesthouse. It may be treated as three-star category, but not five-star like Mr Sonowal’s residence.”