Indira moment in UP politics
Will Akhilesh part with old guard and split SP?
Lucknow: The kind of dilemma Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is facing today had confronted Indira Gandhi way back in 1969.
Young Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had the guts and the will to shake off the old guard and strike a new, risky path for herself and her colleagues by splitting the national party. Can the young Chief Minister Akhilesh follow in her foot steps and carve a niche for himself in UP politics?
After Kamaraj Nadar retired as the president of the Congress party after the poor show in 1967 elections, Indira Gandhi wanted to have her own person as party president. But the old guard known as the ‘syndicate’ within the party opted for Nijalingappa, former chief minister of Karnataka.
There was a clear rift between the party and the government. Indira took a bold initiative and split the party and headed Congress (I) leaving behind the Congress (O) led by the aged and stubborn leaders.
Similar conditions prevail in UP now. Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav, Amar Singh, Azam Khan and others represent the outdated politics of Yadav-Muslim alliance. There is pressure from the old timers in the party on Mulayam Singh Yadav goading him to take over the reins from his son before the elections.
The party leaders expect, as Nijalingappa, Atulya Ghosh, SK Patil and others did, the inexperienced CM to follow their diktats. Akhilesh, like Indira then, is popular among the youth. He has modern ideas. He talks of good roads, power production, industrial growth, computers and new economic zones. All castes in all regions love him. He prevented criminal elements from joining the party. He is more comfortable to share platform with Rahul Gandhi and Ajit Singh than with any senior Yadav or Muslim leader from his party.
Akhilesh might move rightwards while Indira went leftwards by going for bank nationalization and State control. But the situation is the same as it was in the winter 47 years ago. As the winter approaches, Akhilesh has to make up his mind and grab the Indira moment if he has to prove himself to be a worthy leader in his own right.
That Akhilesh has his own mind and his own plans for the elections is beyond doubt. His absence at the crucial press conference addressed by his father and the supreme leader of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) was a clear indication that the rift in the family is far from resolved. One can have a glimpse into the mind of the chief minister by looking at the video he got prepared for his Rath Yatra starting on November 3.
On Monday, over a cake baked for his birthday by older daughter Timsy, the 43-year old Akhilesh said, “I am like a horse with blinkers starting a race. I don’t see anything but the coming polls”. And he was prepared for the polls and the campaign well in advance knowing very well that the old guard in the party led by his uncle Shivpal Yadav would make it difficult for him.
The modern mind of Akhilesh is visible in his video and audio meant for the campaign. They are not in keeping with the traditional election campaign style of SP. The video features only Akhilesh, his wife and their children. Mulayam Singh is not seen. At the beginning of the video, Akhilesh says, “Every day I commit myself to the future of Uttar Pradesh.”
A pensive Akhilesh sits in his office looking out of the window at the old Assembly building. The three-minute video shows the CM busy with a number of development and relief programmes. The CM is shown as a devout family person. When he is at work, his children disturb him. He cheerfully drops the work on hand and plays cricket with them. An environmental engineer by education abroad, the CM is seen as an urban-oriented man with a rural backdrop.
It is evident that Akhilesh is prepared to walk out of the shadow of his father to emerge as a modern politician who is secular and development-oriented.
He met Governor Ram Naik on Wednesday triggering rumours about his intensions. His uncle, Shivpal Yadav, has moved out of the government accommodation as he was sacked from the ministry.
Akhilesh earlier said that Shivpal and his close associate Amar Singh have discredited him among Muslims. He demanded that his father must marginalize both of them. On Sunday, Shivpal and three other ministers were sacked by Akhilesh to prove that he is on the top. Shivpal Yadav retaliated by expelling Pawan Pandey from the party for indiscipline and harassment. The sparring match within the party and government has been going on unabated despite valiant attempts by Mulayam Singh to keep the family and the party united. This can’t go on for long since Akhilesh has to face the people soon to canvass for the elections.
If he splits the party now, he can blame the old guard, as Indira did, as stumbling blocks in the path of progress. He can complain to the people that leaders who are good at manipulation in the name of religion and caste are not good at development and they were not allowing him to develop the state.
Akhilesh can blame the old guard for all the failures of his government in the past four and half years and promise to do better if elected without the baggage of the old guard. Either way, he will have anti-incumbency. The best method to beat it would be by treading a new, bold, albeit risky, path by moving away from the votaries of status quo, communal politics and retrograde politicians.
He has nothing to lose. This is the opportune time for him to act. It is now or never, a defining moment for Akhilesh and the UP politics. Will he or won’t he is the question.