Snatching the reins from the old: Indira, Naidu, now Akhilesh!
Lucknow: The inevitable has happened in Uttar Pradesh politics. The trouble brewing over five months has reached its peak threatening the unity of the Samajwadi Party. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was expelled for six years from his own party by his own father. His uncle Ram Naresh Yadav, a Rajya Sabha Member, was also expelled for six years for anti-party activities. Akhilesh has only Ram Naresh Yadav as advisor while Mulayam has his younger brother Shivpal Yadav, friend Amar Singh and his second wife to give him advice. The scenes that were witnessed in the streets of Luknow and at the residence of Akhilesh indicate great amount of mass support for the young chief minister. But one can never say for sure.
The political bomb blast took place just four days before the election notification is due. The Election Commission is likely to announce the election schedule for UP on January 4. SP’s founder Mulayam Singh had released a long list of some 325 candidates. Akhilesh in turn declared the candidature of 235 loyalists. This forced Mulayam to take disciplinary action against his son for defying the supreme commander of the party.
Ram Naresh Yadav has described the action by Mulayam Singh as unconstitutional and disruptive. He accused Mulaym of trying to destroy the political career of Akhilesh. The chief minister’s uncle has called for a meeting of party MLAs at 8 am on the first day of the New Year. Shivpal Yadav, the president of SP, has also called for a separate meeting on the same day.
Telugus are likely to recall two occasions in the past after witnessing the dramatic scenes in Lucknow on TV screen. One was in 1969 when Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister, split the Congress to shed the burden of old and obstinate leaders who were dubbed as Syndicate. In 1967, the Congress party lost elections in many North Indian States giving place to Samyukta Vidhayak Dal governments.
In 1969, when the Congress was split, the party was not very strong. After the split, the people, including the people of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, stood solidly by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and voted for the Congress (I). The party gained steam after the split and went on to rule the country till 1975 when Indira Gandhi foolishly declared Emergency and ruled the country in a dictatorial fashion thus alienating the common people. She came back to power after a gap of two years, thanks to the bickering leaders of the Janata Party and its government.
The second occasion was when Nara Chandrababu Naidu took away the reins of the party and the government from his father-in-law, NT Rama Rao. Like Nijalingappa, the then Congress president, who expelled Indira Gandhi from the party, NTR also expelled Naidu from the TDP just before he lost power. Naidu was a shrewd and ruthless politician who played the game with consummate skills checkmating the clueless king who was prepared to lose the throne for the sake of his second wife, Laxmi Parvati. Naidu got majority of the MLAs with him and replaced NTR with the help of an obliging Governor, Krishan Kant and a cooperative Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. Like NTR, Mulayam Singh also is known to be a stubborn and an uncompromising person not flexible enough to accept new ideas. Mulayam is keen on supporting Shivpal and Amar Singh who are known for wheeling-dealing and for continuing to associate with thugs and criminals.
Akhilesh has proved, in five years of his term, to be a young and dynamic chief minister who is development-oriented and modern-minded. He has an image of incorruptible leader. He connects with the youth irrespective of caste and religion. The young appear to be supporting him wholeheartedly. Would Akhilesh be able to do what Indira in 1969 and Naidu in 1995 did? It is a million dollar question the answer of which would be available only on the day the votes in UP polls are counted. If Akhilesh and his supporters launch a new political party and get into an alliance with the Congress and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, the combine might give a good fight to the BSP and the BJP. Whatever the BJP leaders may say, the party would pay for the drastic demonetization decision that had adversely impacted the lives of the poor and the middle class.
Who will gain from SP’s pain? In UP, the Muslim vote is critical. Muslims generally vote for the candidate who is likely to beat the BJP candidate. They used to align with either SP or BSP with a small percentage backing the Congress. If Akhilesh and his allies give confidence that they would inspire the youth from all castes and religions, the Muslims might stand by the alliance. If Akhilesh and friends fail to enthuse people, the Muslims who are likely to vote for the SP and the Congress would migrate to BSP making Mayawati a winning proposition. She has already given more than one-fourth of the tickets to Muslim candidates. A considerable chunk of Muslims is with her party. If the rest of the Muslim voters also move over to the BSP, the electoral chances of the party would surely improve.
The BJP, which might have benefited over the family feud in the SP had there been no demonetization, is not likely to gain much from the split. The voters of the SP cannot vote for the BJP. That is why the two parties don’t enter into pre-poll alliance. They join hands only after elections. Mulayam’s comments indicate that he has soft corner for the BJP. The election scene in UP would attain more clarity after the meetings scheduled for January 1, 2017. Till then one can only cross his fingers and keep guessing.