Akhilesh Yadav's rath yatra has reinforced an old rule of Indian politics: In the end, Bairam Khan always gets sidelined and Akbar gets to control his father's legacy.
Akhilesh does not like being compared to Aurangzeb. Comparisons with a monarch who usurps the throne from his father and banishes him to a prison, hurt him. But Akhilesh might not mind being his story being compared to Akbar's.
Like the Mughal emperor, Akhilesh became a ruler at a young age, though in more fortuitous circumstances. And, like Akbar, during the early years of his government, he too was dominated by his powerful regent — his uncle Shivpal.
But, Bairam Khans rarely last in politics once the ruler grows in age, stature and experience; once they start yearning for independence and greater control. On Thursday, as Akhilesh launched his rath yatra from Lucknow, it became evident that he had got rid of his Bairam Khan to emerge as the undisputed leader of the Samajwadi Party and undisputed heir to his father's legacy.
The signs of his complete dominance were evident. Setting aside the recent acrimony within the family, father Mulayam Singh smiled beatifically as the son announced his plans to vanquish the BJP and return to power. Chacha Shivpal, who, till a few days ago, was vying with Akhilesh to control the party and the government stood alongside, telling workers to unite behind the chief minister. On the stage was a bevy of youth leaders who had been sacked by Shivpal a fortnight ago. And his pet peeve, the perceived villain of the opera Amar Singh was nowhere in sight.
It is obvious that the family has resigned to the fait accompli of Akhilesh being the face and future of the Samajwadi Parivar. And Shivpal will henceforth walk under Akhilesh's flag for some time and, when the time is right, like Bairam Khan, be sent on a pilgrimage.
The denouement is on expected lines. Such are the established ethos of Indian society that a father rarely passes on his inheritance to a brother if he has an eligible son. If Shivpal was expecting Mulayam to banish Akhilesh, he was ignoring hundreds of years of traditional wisdom.
Shivpal's other problem, to use a dart Mulayam threw at Akhilesh during the public brawl at the party's silver jubilee celebrations, was that he had no political haisiyat (standing). Shivpal was reminded of his lack of stature several times over the past few days when his efforts to reach out to the Congress, Nitish Kumar and other anti-BJP parties were cruelly snubbed. Shivpal's failure to get even a single party to ally with the divided Samajwadis must have reminded Mulayam of the futility of stoking the ambitions of his brother.
The successful launch of Akhilesh rath yatra is definitely the end of Shivpal's dream of ruling Uttar Pradesh. He may henceforth sulk and rebel, but will find himself tethered to Akhilesh's destiny, unless, of course, he decides to do a Ramkripal and join the BJP or some other party.
Ironically, the unified Yadav parivar would be a source of relief for the very party they have vowed to defeat in the next election--the BJP. Shivpal and Mulayam's apparent surrender has ensured that the Samajwadi Party will not split before the elections. It will remain a viable political force and ensure that elections become a triangular fight, a scenario that suits the BJP.
The SP will not split. But the anti-BJP vote will.
That's where the similarities with Akbar may end for Akhilesh. Like Bairam Khan, he too may be forced to proceed on a political hajj for a few years.