Ridiculing Akhilesh Yadav at Amar Singh’s party triggered UP chief secretary’s ouster

And insolent Deepak Singhal provoked the CM into taking stern action against him.

 |  4-minute read |   13-09-2016
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Making fun of chief minister Akhilesh Yadav at a private bash thrown by Amar Singh has cost UP chief secretary Deepak Singhal dear.

Barely 36 hours after the party in New Delhi on Sunday night, where Akhilesh was conspicuous by his absence,  Singhal, a 1982 batch IAS officer, was unceremoniously removed from the top job he had bagged barely two months ago.

akhilesh-yadav-pti_091316093536.jpg Mulayam's younger brother Shivpal Yadav (left) with Akhilesh Yadav (right). Photo credit: PTI

He was immediately replaced by Rahul Bhatnagar, a 1983 batch IAS officer, widely known for his integrity and capability. With a brilliant track record to his credit, Bhatnagar was holding the office of the state's financial commissioner and principal secretary (finance), with the additional charge of sugarcane and sugar industries.

Akhilesh's boot to Singhal has surely given a big boost to his assertive image, which has, of late, become visible after long. The first signs appeared about two months ago when the UP CM defied his father and uncle to give a firm snub to the proposed merger of mafia don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari's Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) with the Samajwadi Party.

On September 12, he took everyone by surprise by dropping mining minister Gayatari Prasad Prajapati and horticulture minister Raj Kishore Singh, both allegedly embroiled in large scale corruption, from his Cabinet. Akhilesh sacked the two without seeking the nod from his father, who had been blatantly patronising Prajapati even as his activities as mining minister had always been under the cloud.

In less than 24 hours, Akhilesh's axe fell on Singhal. A bigmouth, Singhal often got away with snide remarks about the chief minister, who, until now, had chosen to ignore such utterances.

But the chief minister's loose rope turned him increasingly insolent and he continued with the chatter till it provoked the chief minster into taking stern action against him.

In fact, Singhal's appointment to the top job was widely known to be  against the wishes of the chief minister who was prevailed upon by his overbearing father Mulayam Singh Yadav, widely known for his backseat driving ever since he anointed Akhilesh on the hot seat four-and-a-half years ago.

Mulayam's younger brother Shivpal Yadav, former confidant Amar Singh, and the all powerful principal secretary to chief minister Anita Singh, known for her clout with Mulayam, were understood to have strongly lobbied for Singhal. However, keen on avoiding controversies at this juncture when the state is heading for the Assembly polls, Akhilesh wanted to keep Singhal at arm's length not only because of the latter's track record, but also because of the bureaucrat's proximity to his "chacha" Shivpal Yadav.

While Akhilesh did not assign any reason for Singhal's ouster, it was the cumulative effect of several factors that brought upon the bureaucrat's fall from grace. Singhal was stated to have, at times, even bypassed the chief minister in taking certain key decisions at the behest of Mulayam or Shivpal.

More recently, he went ahead and allotted 450 acres of prime land, along the Yamuna Expressway in Greater Noida, at a throwaway price to Baba Ramdev for setting up a giant "Patanjali" unit. Without taking the chief minister into confidence, he accompanied Baba Ramdev for a meeting with Mulayam, who gave an instant go-ahead to the project.

The chief minister was furious when he learnt about a quid pro quo between Ramdev and Singhal, whose kin was rewarded with a multi-billion distributorship of Patanjali products.

Besides, ever since Singhal assumed the office of chief secretary, he is known to have often commented at official meetings on how the state government had failed to do anything over the past four-and-a-half years.

In his obvious bid to run down his predecessors, Singhal had been virtually negating all talk of development that the chief minister has been boasting about as his achievement. And it was on the strength of this "achievement" that Akhilesh hopes to stage a comeback in March 2017 when UP goes to polls.

What transpired on Sunday night at Amar Singh's bash is said to have crossed all limits of civility. Sore over Akhilesh's absence, Amar Singh made some snide remarks and Singhal only chose to add insult to injury. No sooner than the news reached Lucknow, an already charged Akhilesh got the trigger to tell Singhal that "enough is enough".

Writer

Sharat Pradhan Sharat Pradhan @sharatpradhan21

The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst based in Lucknow.

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