Lucknow: Is the seven-month-old Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh hostage to senior ministers and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav's men?
With a crumbling law and order situation, the ruling Samajwadi Party's (SP) old guard returning to "Halla Bol" days and developmental works yet to take off, the public mood is turning against the 39-year-old chief minister.
Ever since Akhilesh Yadav took charge, insiders say, he had been trying "seriously to hard-sell his vision to the people".
But the result on the ground are different, largely because of SP's old guard.
Law and order seems to be slipping out of hands -- a senior minister has been accused of kidnapping a chief medical officer; six gun-battles have taken place inside courts; there has been more than 12 attacks on police stations and policemen; three jail breaks have been attempted; seven communal riots have left more than 12 dead and the power crisis continues.
The problem, many feel, is the multiplicity of power centres in the government which has not only crippled the bureaucracy but also tainted the chief minister's image as a leader who would usher in change in the state long cheated by politicians.
A close aide of Akhilesh Yadav says that while most ministers are senior to the chief minister politically, his uncles -- PWD Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Gopal Yadav -- father Mulayam Singh and ministerial colleague Mohammed Azam Khan have also "slowed down the zeal of Akhilesh."
"Whenever the chief minister tries to tread on a new path, he has to deal with egoes and political bottlenecks," a senior official told IANS, not wanting to be named.
The person has been privy to many decisions which were either reversed or delayed because of Akhilesh Yadav's "uncle's interference."
Many in the opposition, while slamming the SP government's performance, seem to be empathising with the 39-year-old marine engineer-turned-politician.
"Where is governance in the state?" says Congress leader P.L. Punia.
He says that on a flight from Lucknow to Delhi, a minister told him that "Akhilesh dare not return his files".
As a trickle effect, even senior officials are wary of taking decisions and many a times wait till "unruffled feathers are sorted out".
"It is a truth that we are into a delicate balancing of power most of the times," another senior official told IANS.
The official said interference in policy decisions by the Yadavs was a "perpetual problem."
Shivpal Singh Yadav is said to be touchy about "decisions not communicated to him."
A senior chief ministerial aide says Akhilesh Yadav was not only careful but too decent to take on senior leaders.
Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is also said to be enjoying a "Sonia Gandhi-like status" in the UP government.
He is said to be enjoying all perks of power without any accountability.
"It is an open secret in UP that nothing moves here without the consent of 'Netaji' (Mulayam Singh). Even plum postings are decided by him and his close officials," said a senior bureaucrat.
Many tainted officials of the previous Mayawati government have been brought back, mainly because "they have worked on the senior Yadav" and in return brought infamy to the chief minister who may not have agreed to all such decisions.
In a recent incident involving the Minister of State for Revenue and Rehabilitation Vinod alias Pandit Singh, who was alleged to have abducted a chief medical officer when he refused to toe his line of contractual employment of doctors, the chief minister had made up his mind to sack Singh but for his father, say insiders.
Mulayam was of the view that since there were "mere allegations", the party should go soft on the "loyalist who has taken around the party flag for 25 years."
Even the fifth floor - "Pancham Tal", the power centre of governance in UP, is packed with Mulayam Singh's loyalists such as Anita Singh and Pandhari Yadav, leaving little room for the chief minister to "work on his own."
His uncle, Ram Gopal Yadav, who "handles the central government" for the party recently expelled Akhilesh Yadav's aide Sanjay Lathar. It was seen as a move to clip the wings of youngsters in the party.
Mohammad Azam Khan has thrown tantrums more than thrice and openly embarrassed the chief minister.
Akhilesh Yadav however has publicly called his father's interjections and seniors' interventions a "serious and well-meaning effort by guardians of the party".
But with so many heads to answer to and so many egos to satisfy, officials say, a toll on governance was sure to happen, which might reflect in the coming Lok Sabha elections.