Within a day of taking over as caretaker Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand Governor Aziz Qureshi sparked off a political controversy by announcing that he would hold a daily "janta darbar" (people's court) in the Raj Bhavan (Governor House).
"Dr Qureshi will be available to the general public at Raj Bhawan between 11am to 1pm daily (excluding holidays)," said an official release. Qureshi has been given additional charge of UP after the post fell vacant on June 17 after BL Joshi, an appointee of the previous UPA government, resigned.
Qureshi's announcement is being seen as a major embarrassment for the Akhilesh Yadav government. The Samajwadi Party CM had started a daily "janta darshan" to get firsthand feedback from the people immediately after he took over in March 2012. The ritual, widely welcomed by the people and the media, was soon reduced from a Monday-to-Friday affair to four days a week and shortly thereafter to once a week and eventually to once in a month.
Detractors say Qureshi, who holds a prestigious Constitutional office, is crossing his brief by indulging in politics. Interestingly, soon after his oath ceremony, the caretaker Governor called on renowned Islamic scholar and principal of the famous Nadwatul Ulema, Lucknow, Maulana Rabe Hasan Nadwi. Besides, Qureshi will visit Varanasi on Monday "to meet saints and seers".
Surprisingly, the ruling SP and the BJP are serried on the same side in their vehement opposition to Qureshi's "janta darbar" gambit. Besides, the step is considered unusual as only elected heads of governments organise such sessions to listen to people's complaints and resolve them on the spot. In the past, though, Governors have adopted this practice but strictly during spells of Presidential rule.
The matter was sought to be raised in the Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday by UP BJP chief and MLA Laxmikant Vajpayee who said: "When there is an elected government in place and even the Assembly session is on, what is the need for the Governor to start a janta darbar?"
However, the Speaker did not allow any debate on the matter, saying defining the Governor's functioning was out of the Assembly's purview.
The Samajwadi Party, not surprisingly, has criticised the governor. "There is no reason for him to hold janata darshan. This will create a parallel government. It's a clear case of interference by the Centre," said party MP Naresh Agarwal.