Lucknow, July 9 (IANS) Is the political honeymoon of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav over sooner rather than later?
Beginning Monday, as Yadav junior proceeds on a four-day family vacation at Melbourne, visiting the Healesville Sanctuary and smelling the roses at the Werribee Mansion, aides believe that he would also be doing some stock-taking of his three-month tenure in the state.
In the state capital, political circles are rife with discussions that how Yadav - hailed as the rising crown prince of Uttar Pradesh politics not so long ago - was fast slipping in public ratings and losing favour with his party cadres.
This is after two major flip-flops - closure of all shopping malls by 7 p.m. and the decision to allow legislatures buy cars worth Rs.20 lakh from their Local Area Development (LAD) funds.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kalraj Mishra, while refraining from a personal attack on the 39-year-old chief minister, says the "rating of the Samajwadi Party (SP) government is on a downslide".
"We had been saying that when the SP is voted to power what all would happen... People's disenchantment with the government is more than obvious," Mishra pointed out.
Vijay Bahadur Pathak, spokesman of the state BJP unit, was more vocal in his criticism of Yadav. Calling him a "roll back" chief minister, Pathak says Akhilesh Yadav has "earned a sorry reputation for himself".
Even party insiders feel that a spiralling crime rate, pathetic law and order and overzealous party cadres ready to claim the pie for their loyalty has sullied both - the image of the chief minister and the SP.
Rajendra Chaudhary, a close aide of the chief minister and party spokesman, however, said that in the first three months the direction of the government has been set.
"In the first three months, development schemes have been rolled out and no corruption has taken place in the state," Chaudhary said.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav also defended his chief minister son's tenure and said that three months are too early to draw conclusions.
"You will have to understand that we inherited a mess from the previous government, efforts are on to sort things out. Things will gradually be in place," Yadav senior told IANS.
He also refuted charges that the government was going soft on former chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati.
During the budget session, the chief minister on the floor of the assembly refused probes into the sale of 21 sugar mills by her at throwaway prices and on her splurging public money on her Mall Avenue house.
"Try to understand that corruption will not be tolerated by the SP government. Probes are on... By acting in haste, we do not want to send a wrong message that the government is involved in vendetta," Mulayam Yadav added.
Party insiders agree that besides the grim power scenario in the state, the law and order is bothering the state government too.
While the monsoon, an office bearer of the SP says, might lessen worries of the state government on power front, the "public mood on law and order" was "more troubling."
Director General of Police (DGP) Ambreesh Chandra Sharma admited that there is an urgent need to tie up "some lose ends" on the crime scene. However, he is thankful to his political bosses for "minimal interference" in transfers and postings of officials in field.
In view of the sensitive relationship with the SP, Congress leaders are so far tight-lipped on the chief minister's performance, especially in the run-up to the crucial July 19 presidential polls, but admit in private that the government had "fallen from grace sooner than what they had expected".
Founder of the City Montessori School Jagdish Gandhi, who is believed to have close links with the chief minister, is however full of praise for him.
"Rather than calling it the end of honeymoon, I think he has just started," he says.
"He is accessible, he loves kids, is serious about education and appears to be making sincere efforts to bring back the state to normalcy," he said.
Industrialist Kiron Chopra, who has had few interactions with the chief minister, agreed. "It is a little too early to come to conclusions, I am sure he is making efforts to create an industry-friendly and pro-investment environment in the state," the businessman said.
Politically, however, these efforts do not seem to be paying dividends to the ruling party.
In the three months since the SP came to power, the party has lost the by-election in Maant (Mathura) where the chief minister personally canvassed for votes and the BJP made huge gains in the recent municipal corporation and urban local body polls.
Although the mandarins in the party say that they had not officially contested the polls, the fact that the SP had supported many candidates across the state leaves them with little answers.
The bureaucracy too feels that while Akhilesh Yadav has "matured fast", he remains raw in his three months of rule.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)