Senior minister Azam Khan landed in a fresh controversy when he drove a bus on the Jauhar University campus in Rampur with students and teachers on board.
Though the ride was largely incident-free, the bus did get stuck in a divider when the journey was about to end. No one was injured.
However, the incident did provide fodder to the opposition BJP to attack Khan and demand action. It is not known whether Khan has a licence to drive a heavy vehicle, an issue raised by the BJP.
The occasion was the launch of the roadways Lohia rural bus service on the Jauhar University campus on Monday.
After cutting the ribbon to signal the launch, Khan took the keys of the bus and then surprised everyone by taking the drivers’ seat.
He not only sat behind the wheel, but also started the engine and went on to drive the vehicle. Locals claimed that the minister kept on driving the bus, which had students, officials and teachers on board, for some time. The minister drove the bus like an expert.
"Not once did it appear that he wasn't comfortable behind the wheels," an eyewitness said on phone from Rampur.
"He was indeed in control of the vehicle and despite the fact that the vehicle got stuck into a divider what needs to be borne in mind is that such minor incidents can happen to the best of drivers," a local said on the phone from Rampur.
The minister later spoke to the media. He slammed the BJP for its double speak and said that by diluting its stand on Article 370 the RSS and the BJP has now showcased its 'dual character.' "For power they are even willing to compromise on their ideology," Khan told reporters in Rampur.
On its part, the BJP is now asking if the minister had a licence to drive a heavy vehicle. “Who gave the minister the licence to play with the lives of students? What were the district magistrate and ARTO doing when the minister was busy driving a bus?
“While one expects an answer to these questions but what also needs to be explained is if the minister isn’t attempting to prove that he is bigger than the chief minister,” says UP BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak. The BJP’s take has a context.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav rode a bicycle on Sunday to signal the inauguration of the cycle track, his dream project. The next day Khan rode a bus, making the BJP link the two. The BJP, which has been busy targeting the minister, has demanded action against Khan. “Action must also be initiated against those officers who didn’t stop Khan from driving a heavy vehicle,” Pathak said.