Akhilesh-Mulayam drama: Nothing has changed in Samajwadi Party, but public perception

At the risk of sounding repetitive, it has to be mentioned: In politics, especially in Uttar Pradesh, things remain same even as they seem to change. On the last day of 2016, it appeared as if yet another episode, in a seemingly unending political soap opera in Uttar Pradesh, had ended, albeit for a break. And everyone (read people of Uttar Pradesh) is expecting the new episode to start in the new year.

Whether the script of this so-called dama was written in advance, or is written on a daily basis as per requirement, or all the characters are let free to enact their roles as they wish, is not known. But it is almost certain that the twists and turns that are coming up cannot unfold by themselves. Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav is considered among the most clever and wily politicians in India. Unexpected decisions bordering on the unusual are expected from him. But no one thought he would create a situation in which, the party he himself had created, his son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his brother-cum-best-friend Shivpal would be caught in a dilemma.

Akhilesh Yadav with Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI file image

Akhilesh Yadav with Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI file image

What had apparently started as a dispute over the authority to decide party candidates for the 2017 Assembly election in the state had soon degenerated into an all-out, public spat between family members, fisticuffs among party workers, ugly accusations, allegations, expulsions of ministers and legislators, and finally, announcement of separate lists of contestants. Everyone thought that the family patriarch Mulayam would eventually come out with a solution that would not annoy brother Shivpal and at the same time make Akhilesh retain his position as Chief Minister and put him in the driver’s seat for 2017 election.

This is what happened in the end, on 31 December 2016. But just have a look at what happened over the last four months:

• Shivpal launches attack on Akhilesh government
• Akhilesh removes Shivpal and his supporters from the ministry
• Akhilesh made state party president in place of Shivpal
• Akhilesh supporters including legislators expelled from the party
• Serious charges levelled against Ram Gopal and the latter removed from party
• Serious charges levelled against Shivpal
• Akhilesh supporter ministers removed from party
• Allegations and counter allegations fly in party meetings
• Serious charges leveled against Amar Singh, yet Amar Singh given party post
• Ram Gopal taken back into the party, given same post
• Contradictory signals on pre-election coalition
• Separate lists of contestants released by Shivpal and Akhilesh
• Akhilesh expelled from the party for releasing list without authority
• Ram Gopal expelled (again) from the party for calling a national convention
• More than 200 legislators congregate at meeting called by Akhilesh
• Negligible attendance at meet called by Mulayam and Shivpal
• Sudden withdrawal of expulsion orders of Akhilesh and Ram Gopal
• Expected announcement by Shivpal that “all is well” and the party will unitedly contest the election.

Now, it is said that, expectedly, a comprehensive and revised list of party contestants will be announced soon and both Akhilesh and Shivpal will consent to it. It remains to be seen though what the party decides about people with criminal background, since it was among the major reasons which led to Akhilesh’s discontent. Incidentally, Atiq Ahmed, one of such candidates, has expressed his solidarity with Akhilesh.

Such a scenario has never been seen in any party in state so far. Questions are arising quite naturally over the seriousness of all that had happened. Was Mulayam not aware of the nature of his brother and son as far as their attitudes and reactions are concerned? Whether the answer is a “yes” or “no”, it does not explain why Mulayam let a situation of confrontation arise between the two. It is difficult to say whether the relationship between Akhilesh and his uncle will settle down to normal after what has happened, but one thing is certain: both of them – as well as other members of the family – will very soon present a picture of bonhomie in public, with lots of hugging and feet-touching. And the picture will be used as a symbol of unified Samajwadi Party for the upcoming election campaign.

But several other doubts will continue to linger. The number of such people, incidentally, is rising who think that the happenings were part of a pre-planned strategy to establish Akhilesh as the supreme leader in the party. Considering this, will the people take any future crisis within the Samajwadi Party seriously? The conflict that has arisen among workers owing allegiance to either of the two factions is collateral damage.

The significance of party bodies like Parliamentary Board, National Executive, Election Committee etc has been reduced, since all important decisions are now taken by individuals. Even Ram Gopal Yadav has pointed this out. At the same time, all senior leaders are becoming insignificant. It is only Akhilesh who matters – whether running the government, leading the campaign or finalising the contestant list. Even Mulayam, whom everyone in the party admits to be the last word, appears to have lost his appeal and grip over the party and its constituents. And of course, it is Shivpal whose position has become utterly precarious and untenable. Why should his decisions be taken seriously now? For the seniors, the only place seems in a Margdarshak mandal type of organisation created for them.

The challenge before Akhilesh is to restore the credibility of his party and other seniors in the upcoming election campaign. It remains to be seen how seriously the people of Uttar Pradesh will take this picture of party unity when the polling day finally arrives.


Updated Date: Jan 01, 2017 11:07 AM

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