From Diwali to New Year, the fireworks at the Samajwadi Party camp are still going on and by the look of it, a lot of crackers are still left in the boxes. Once the epitome of brotherhood and patronage, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s paradise is in shambles.
The worried look, particularly after the Election Commission’s decision to grant the party symbol to son Akhilesh Yadav, on the veteran’s face tells many stories about loyalists and dissidents. Just as the year was about to end amid speculations if the entire drama was scripted, the power struggle between the father-son duo took an unexpected turn resulting in the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s expulsion from the party for six years.
Party patriarch, Mulayam Singh Yadav, had enough of defiance by his rebel son, Akhilesh. Mulayam Singh soon recalled the decision but the damage was done. In a true Mughal spirit, Akhilesh dethroned his father, and was given the all-powerful seat of the party president by his faction.
Amidst all the drama, the father and son have once again united but the tussle for the party president’s post is keeping the father and son from moving forward. Though Akhilesh, on many occasions, has publicly portrayed the image of an obedient son, in his heart he wants to rise above the shadow of his puissant father.
Tired of being labelled as the puppet CM, Akhilesh has been fighting the past ways of the old giants in his party. Focussing on the development of the state, he has been continuously struggling to clear the party’s image of corruption and gun-rule.
He invited the ire of his father and uncle Shivpal Yadav when he turned down the decision to merge the infamous Quami Ekta Dal with Samajwadi Party. Steering clear of all criminal elements, Akhilesh wants the party to break away from caste politics and infighting. But the inevitable is happening. With the polls less than a month away, the family bedlam is going to cost the Samajwadi’s dearly.
The one fact, which is staring everyone in the face, is the party patriarch’s unwillingness to let the natural passage of power to his son. Or is it this son in particular that Mulayam is hesitant to brand as his heir? Neglected by father and loved by masses, Akhilesh has been struggling to find his place. Ever since Akhilesh started asserting himself, Netaji (his father) has often snubbed him publicly, at times indecorously.
Mulayam’s continuous wavering decisions leave the door open for a lot of speculations. Is it possible that the 77 year old political heavy weight is still holding on to his dreams of becoming the PM? Or is he orchestrating the feud to give prominence to his other son, Prateek Yadav?
While numerous fingers are pointing towards Sadhana Yadav, second wife of Mulayam and Prateek’s mother, for being responsible for the ongoing turbulence, many party workers believe that Netaji has been misled by outsider Amar Singh. Singh’s contribution in the whole scenario leaves a dark cloud over the mysterious and indecisive ways in which the party supremo has been acting.
Can someone, who openly claims that “he is a Mulayamwadi, not a Samajwadi”, be trusted with the well-being of the party and not his own agenda? Akhilesh from the beginning was opposed to inclusion of Amar Singh into the party after 6 years. The rift among the Yadavs has undoubtedly grown bigger and more perplexing since Singh’s arrival.
Both Akhilesh and his uncle Ram Gopal have been averse to Amar Singh’s growing proximity with Mulayam, the outcomes of which are hard to miss. Soon after a meeting between Mulayam and Singh in September 2016, Akhilesh was removed as the state president and uncle Shivpal was nominated to take his place. Ever since, the party has been in news for frequent expulsions and order reversals.
With loyalties divided, the ‘cycle’ is set on a downward path. Akhilesh has the support amongst majority of Samajwadi MLAs and MPs. His ardent followers have made him the party president. As they claim, he is the real Samajwadi Party.
However, the real Samajwadi Party, as claimed by Mulayam, is the party chief himself. The party grew up riding his able shoulders. The vacuum created by Congress in the late 80s was filled in by Mulayam’s growing support among the backward castes and Muslims. His political journey saw many stepping stones, from Samyukta Socialist Party to Bhartiya Kranti Dal to Janta Dal.
Finally it was the year 1992, when he reached his destination and formed the Samajwadi Party. The three time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh is the strongest pillar of UP’s politics. His fall is being seen as the end of dynasty politics in UP.
The choices with Mulayam, albeit unwilling at the present moment, are limited. For reasons known only to him, the senior Yadav is vacillating in his decisions. His confusion has left him with the support of a few.
Akhilesh, on the other hand, has built his own brand and is reaping the benefits. The developmental work carried out by his government will be enough to tip the electoral scales in his favour. His popularity among youth is not going down well with the party veterans, especially his uncle Shivpal. The young, however, are jubilant as they see the lights dimming on nepotism, casteism and regionalism in the party corridors.
Unlike his predecessors, Akhilesh took the oath as UP’s CM with no baggage of his own. He had a clear head full of ideas and well-intentioned vision for his state. Reaching the end of a rather successful full tenure as a first time CM, Akhilesh has made his mark. His tenure has seen completion of many developmental and infrastructural projects, expansion of IT sector, launch of several welfare schemes, and fulfillment of promises he made.
Despite Mulayam’s continuous interventions in the government’s functioning and scorning Akhilesh’s actions, the son did manage to rise to the occasion. He refused to be overshadowed and broke away from superficial adherence to the old party ways.
By revolting against his father and uncle, not only has Akhilesh made a place for himself in UP politics but is also making his presence felt nationally.
UP assembly elections are one of the most closely watched elections in the whole country as the state is a political heavyweight and guides the course of national mandate. The young CM is seen by many as the new age leader, who has the capability of rising to power in the Lok Sabha.
What Mulayam could not achieve, his son might. A clear detour from the Samajwadi Party of the past, Akhilesh has widened the party’s reach by breaking the caste barrier. He is acceptable to all communities and castes. Many senior SP see potential in Akhilesh as his vision is set to give a fresh, unsullied rendition to Samajwadi Party’s iniquitous portrait.
In the new age politics where the leader is often bigger than the party, Akhilesh is ready to take the reins from his father. He has created a larger than life image and his popularity gives him access to voters beyond the traditional SP base.
Today Akhilesh’s stellar reputation is wining him accolades from far and near. Not many of his contemporaries can boast of such a feat. Second or third generations young politicians like Omar Abdullah, Sachin Pilot or Jyotiraditya Scindia have successfully inherited power. All have done extensive work, been lauded for their contribution in politics, but it is Akhilesh who is eulogised for his adherence to his agenda.
At a very young age, he has managed to make his own legacy. If the troubled and tormented Samajwadi Party manages to tide over the February elections, it will be to Akhilesh’s credit.
In a family and state, where women remain back-stage, Akhilesh is winning hearts by giving his wife and MP Dimple Yadav her rightful place next to him. Unlike his father and uncles, he is accessible to all and maintains a connect with the young voters through technology.
Though the father and son have been meeting to chart out an amicable course for the party, none seems to be willing to retrace their steps. Especially when the likes of Amar Singh and Shivpal Yadav have unclaimed stakes.
Whether peace in UP’s first family prevails or not, the damage has been done. Samajwadi Party’s fate is still uncertain. On the verge of a breakup, the split is presenting multitudinous possibilities. It could be the game changer for Congress and BJP, both of which have been eluded by UP.
Much depending on the demonetisation gamble played by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the final outcome could unite all communities to vote in favour of the party (or not), except for Muslims, who have always dodged the party.
For Congress, it could be the next big opportunity. With most of Samajwadi’s base looking out for voting options, the main strength of the party, the Yadavs, will be left with frayed loyalties. It would be wise of both Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav, to find brotherhood in each other’s camp.
For the 19% Brahmins, who voted for SP in 2012, it would be a second homecoming. And so will be for the Muslim supporters of SP. Congress might be successful in regaining its lost traditional vote bank of Brahmins and Muslims. The 132 year old colossal party should take the young leader under its wing, for he has taken a leap of faith away from the constrictions of the past ideologies.
While both Congress and BJP are hoping for a comeback in UP, the state elections will chart the course of Akhilesh’s journey. Whether SP manages to keep its vote bank or not, Akhilesh will emerge as a winner. Leading a mammoth state like UP while standing up to a preponderating father, is not a facile task.
Mulayam should gracefully elevate his son to the post of party president and shift his assiduous gaze to guiding the party to another sweeping victory. But, with son’s eye on the future and father’s on the past, how far will the Cycle go?