We know that First Families can do no wrong. Not even if their abilities to win elections with the leadership they have, as with the Gandhi Family, are poor. Solutions are searched for within the party. If not Rahul Gandhi, then the party cadre is willing to root for Priyanka, his sibling. It is a family that has ‘sacrificed’ for the nation.
That puts first families ahead of the party, and as is the case now in Uttar Pradesh, ahead of the state. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has said that “if outsiders interfere in party family matters, how can we tolerate it?” That is an unambiguous a statement of how the family is of primacy. No wonder, since in 2014 elections, only members of the Yadav family got elected to Lok Sabha.
The father, Mulayam Singh Yadav was as pointed too. In the elections to the Lok Sabha in 2014, he unabashedly has underlined during the on-going crisis, that only the members of the family got elected, apparently because they alone had the merit to find the voters’ approbation. So, when a family is party, and thus controls the resources of a large state, things unravel differently.
Imagine Akhilesh Yadav not being of The Family. Could he have thumbed his nose at the party supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the way he has? In any party, such a rebel would have been unceremoniously thrown out. Here, one would imagine, the leader had to balance the demands of the family and the party that is the family.
Sometime ago I had written about how the parliamentary party could perhaps have a full quorum if the elected from Samajwadi Party met at the family dinner table. The party posts, the parliamentary seats, the government offices they hold, overlap ever so nicely that it is not unusual for the son, Akhilesh Yadav to refer to father Mulayam Singh not as papa or daddy or pitaji but Netaji. That about sums it up.
Yesterday, the elder Yadav fumed about the younger Yadav thus: “What happened despite his being the CM? Only five members of the family won. If I had listened to Shivpal (Yadav, brother), we would have won 30-35 seats and I would have been the PM”. Filial bonds keep the machete away and the CM who did not help the father-cum-party supremo grab the highest office, it is only a jumla.
Yet, such a son-cum-chief minister who has been scolded publicly by Mulayam, will now have the right, as per the peace formula, to choose candidates for the forthcoming elections to the UP Legislative Assembly. But here comes the contradiction: Yesterday, the elder Yadav said that Akhilesh “should remember that people have accepted him as CM because he is my son”.
“He never had any individual standing in politics,” said Mulayam, which again underscores the point: a person, according to Mulayam, is good enough to steward a state, by virtue of lineage. It is not my view that Akhilesh is unfit for the post he holds, but it is disheartening to see people in key positions, including having dreamt of prime ministership, argue for or against on the basis of their DNAs.
Of course, there are other families across the country which hold sway in politics of a state – the Pawars of Maharashtra, the Lalu Yadav family of Bihar, and if you sit with a paper and pen, can easily draw up a list of families that count in parties and the states. They may not be in power, but there, lineage has precedence over other considerations. It could be at the taluk or even the district level.