“If Deve Gowda can be Prime Minister why can’t I?”
If Mulayam Singh Yadav becomes PM, don’t blame UPA’s corruption or NDA’s ineffectiveness. Blame Deve Gowda.
Deve Gowda notoriously nodded off in Parliament. The bar is now so low that Mulayam seems to be implying that if you can just manage to stay awake long enough you can be the next PM of India.
But the Samajwadi Party’s patriarch’s desperation to be PM is showing.
His party confab in Kolkata didn’t quite realise his dreams of cobbling together a Third Front. His lavish praise for both Jyoti Basu and Mamata in the same sentence didn’t go down well with Didi. Still smarting from the presidential U turn, she didn’t meet him though she spent an hour with his son. “She is like my younger sister,” Mulayam said nevertheless.
In fact, the Mulayam-Akhilesh duo has become quite the oddball of Indian politics. Usually the parent is the one pushing the son ahead whether he is qualified or not. But Mulayam is riding his son’s kurta tails back into the political limelight.
The sheen is wearing off Akhilesh Yadav, though he was supposed to be the younger, fresher, less corrupt, laptop version of the klunky old Samajwadi Party. But his father appears to have been the biggest beneficiary of his son’s honeymoon period. Having successfully shepherded his party to victory and installed Akhilesh on the gaddi he now seems to have decided why just be kingmaker when you can actually be king. In the run up to the UP elections, everyone felt Mulayam was too old and not well enough for higher office anymore. That was one of the reasons it was imperative to give Akhilesh a chance to be the new face of the party. It was a passing of the baton.
But the old fox has a new spring in his step. Mulayam seems to be everywhere now, cosying up to the UPA for the presidential elections, siding with Mamata on the coal scam, making sweet talk about Jyoti Basu and the Left. Mulayam has crossed 70 but is not ready at all for the renunciation stage of his life. As he reminded the media that while he was not officially in line to be PM, he was no “sadhu sant” either.
After the Samajwadi Party’s Mohan Singh questioned Rahul Gandhi’s “qualities to lead the country” the Congress suspects the Samajwadi Party is trying to cast the next election as between Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav.
But Mulayam says not so fast. Don’t count daddy out. The old wrestler has a few rounds left in him yet.
Seventy two percent of those surveyed in five cities in UP by a TOI-IPSOS poll think that while Akhilesh might be the chief minister, Mulayam is the “super chief minister”. An Outlook story pointed out that “when Akhilesh was sworn in with 47 ministers, the roster read like a Mulayam wishlist. One marker of this influence is the average age of the ministers: about 60 years.” The same TOI-IPSOS poll has 67% of the respondents unhappy with UP’s “goonda raj”. Akhilesh’s promises to tackle corruption are not helped by his uncle saying on camera that it’s ok to “steal a little”. Poor Akhilesh. He’s been delivered a double whammy. His father is still regarded as the real power behind his throne. But the bad report card is going to be about Akhilesh’s failures, not his father’s.
Sonia Gandhi is always accused of pushing Rahul the Reluctant along, of forcing him down the throat of the country. That we can understand because we know the fondness of an ambitious mother knows no limits. But Mulayam has presented us with a whole new twist in our dynastic politics – where the father is not promoting the son, as much as piggybacking on all the media attention the son gets, to reinvent himself as a national leader. So Mamata meets with Akhilesh but Mulayam gets the headlines.
A January 2012 pre-election interview with Mulayam in Outlook magazine opened with a little anecdote about a Christian pastor from Kanpur who promises to say a prayer for the party. “Oh heavenly father, make your son the chief minister of this state, and we pray to you that in the future he becomes the prime minister.”
But the “heavenly father” it turns out might not have given up on his ambitions for the top job himself. Trying to distance himself from his party colleague’s statement about Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam wished the “young leader” good luck. Akhilesh might need it in equal measure as his father seems to be in no mood to ride into the sunset. Son set, more likely.