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Akhilesh axe on minister

Lucknow, Oct. 12: Akhilesh Yadav has sacked a minister accused of abducting a government doctor, the swift action reviving memories of Mayawati getting a MP of her party arrested at her home over a land-grab case in 2007.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister asked Vinod Kumar Singh to quit till an ongoing inquiry is completed. The minister of state for revenue had come to meet Akhilesh at his residence last night when the chief minister sternly told him to leave.

“Singh was virtually sacked,” said another senior minister. Singh is the first minister in the Akhilesh government to be removed since the change of guard in the state in March this year.

The minister is accused of abducting the chief medical officer of Gonda, S.P. Singh, earlier this week after the official refused to appoint doctors recommended by the minister under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). The scheme was rocked by a scam during Mayawati’s tenure and a CBI probe is on.

Vinod Kumar Singh formally resigned this morning but claimed he had done so “on moral grounds”. “There is a conspiracy against me by some local health officials in Gonda. I will come out clean soon,” he said. However, as he proclaimed his innocence, over a hundred of his supporters demonstrated in front of the health headquarters in Gonda.

In 2007, Mayawati had called BSP MP Umakant Yadav home over allegations that he had encroached on a poor Dalit’s land in Azamgarh. Police took him into custody moments after he reached the then chief minister’s residence.

The action was seen as a message that Mayawati would not tolerate indiscipline and to build her image as a tough administrator.

Since assuming office on March 15 this year, Akhilesh has warned ruling Samajwadi Party MLAs and ministers to watch their conduct amid a spurt in crime, sources said.

Some party leaders were suspended. Despite that, many of his cabinet colleagues face allegations of misconduct, prompting rival Mayawati to allege earlier this week that Uttar Pradesh had turned into “Crime Pradesh”.

Akhilesh’s father and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav appeared to back the sacking, pointing out that allegations against the ministers could cost the party in the polls. “It is the duty of ministers to behave decently. When a finger is pointed at any of our ministers, it starts eroding the image of the organisation. The 2014 general elections are not far away,” he told a meeting here today.

Party general secretary Mohan Singh suggested more action could follow against the minister when he “welcomed” the resignation but said “suitable penal action” was needed against Vinod Kumar Singh.

Medical officer S.P. Singh was kidnapped from his residence in Gonda on Tuesday night after he refused to induct 14 doctors recommended by the minister into the NRHM scheme and insisted appointments had already been made on the recommendations of a committee of experts.

Late this evening, S.P. Singh, not seen since Monday’s abduction, returned to his Gonda office after being promised security, sources said.