With both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shivpal Singh Yadav sharing the stage with Akhilesh Yadav on the occasion of the latter’s Rath Yatra launch in Lucknow on Thursday, Uttar Pradesh politics took yet another dramatic turn bringing into focus three things: first, "the rising son of the Samajwadi paivar" will continue to be the face of the SP all through the election campaign and, without any doubt, thereafter as well. That’s settled. No confusion on this score any more.
Second, it's Mulayam – and not Akhilesh — who would take a final call on his party’s politics of alliances. There were ample indications that the son would listen to his father on all inter-party matters. And third, Samajwadi Party's main target of attack from now on would be the BJP – and not the BSP. In their speeches and statements, all the three leaders chose BJP as their main target of attack. Perhaps, they are already thinking beyond the 2017 state Assembly elections.
Indeed, anointment of Akhilesh as the face and future of the party and winning the all-too-crucial elections are two different things and Mulayam knows this better than anyone else. In Mulayam’s calculations, the SP may not get more than 150 of the total 404 assembly seats on its own strength this time. He would need allies. And he certainly seems to know the current political reality much better than what the numerous psephologists put together do.
Nobody in the sprawling La Martinere gounds, where Akhilesh’s election campaign was flagged off, could miss the point when Mulayam dedicated his son’s rath yatra to the jawans of the Indian Army. And, on his part, Akhilesh too displayed the same sentiment in favour of the Army. Both father and son knew that they have got to look ultra-nationalistic to beat the BJP, which had made the Army’s recent surgical strikes across the border an election issue indirectly.
The father-son-uncle trio was also aware of the fact that Rahul Gandhi and many other top opposition leaders had gathered at Bhiwani in Haryana to attend the cremation of Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal, a former soldier who had committed suicide over an insufficient pension. In their own characteristic style they lent their support to the Opposition cause. “Both jawans and kissans are committing suicides in the country”, Akhilesh said.
Mulayam said that India was blessed with the bravest soldiers on earth. “And I know the pains of the jawans”, he added reminding the audience that he had been Defence Minister of India in 1990s.
“The party is united and we shall ensure that the BJP is kept out of Uttar Pradesh”, the trio declared and tried its best to hammer home the point that “it’s UP that decides India’s political direction”.
True, with 80 Lok Sabha seats in the Parliament, UP does matter most in national politics. Needless to say it again that the coming elections are too crucial to be taken lightly by any of the four major players in the fray: For the BJP, 2017 would more or less make it clear if it can return to power in 2019. For the SP and the BSP, it’s likely to decide whether they would remain politically relevant in national politics. And for Rahul Gandhi, it’s do or die.
Little wonder then that both the SP and the Congress are busy giving feelers to each other for a tie-up. Congress strategist Prashant Kishore, who had earlier helped Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar fashion their spectacular victories in 2014 and 2015 respectively, met Mulayam in New Delhi the other day. What they discussed precisely during their two-hour-long meeting is not known.
But one thing was clear: Both saw BJP as their enemy number 1. And enemy of enemy is a friend. Don’t be surprised if the two parties join hands in an alliance sooner than later. There is another reason why the two might forge a front: Of late, Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav have developed friendlier relations. Both admire each other. And young as they are, both look beyond 2017.
That’s all fine. But can you just wish the BSP away? No, you can’t, more so when Mayawati is seen to be making huge progress in spearheading a Dalit-Muslim axis.
Wait for some more days. And don’t be shocked if Maulana Mulayam comes up with an ace up his sleeve. He is counting on Karl Marx’s thesis-anti thesis theory. And that’s why he has chosen BJP as his favourite target of attack.