Akhilesh Yadav is right when he says he will not leave the Samajwadi Party. If history is anything to go by, he will have a party, by taking the party along with him. The Chandrababu Naidu template of 1995 is what Akhilesh may well have in mind.
Twenty one years ago, the other bicycle party in India, the Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, saw a similar war in the parivaar. The TDP and SP are the two parties that have the bicycle symbol allotted to them by the Election Commission. Then Naidu in a palace coup dethroned his father-in-law, the charismatic NT Rama Rao from the Andhra chief minister's chair and took over the party and the government. NTR was left with a handful of MLAs and a badly bruised ego, hurt at how two of his own sons had conspired with Naidu to throw him out. This within just nine months of NTR leading the party to power in December 1994.
Naidu had planned his moves very well. Right through August 1995, he ensured that a majority of the legislators and TDP leaders, who in fact owed their political careers to NTR's benevolence decided to sail with Naidu. He used the presence of NTR's sons Harikrishna and Balakrishna to convey that virtually the entire family had turned against the father. The TDP being a family-run party, like the SP, was dependent on who controlled the family to stay in power.
Naidu managed to get the rank and file of the party to revolt against NTR, not so much in pique against the legendary actor-turned-politician but against his choice of Lakshmi Parvathi, his second wife. Naidu and friends often referred to Lakshmi Parvathi as a 'dusht sakthi' (evil force) who was trying to control and take over the party and projected their coup as a bid to save the TDP. Because they argued that NTR, a husband madly in love with his much younger wife, was allowing himself to get emotionally manipulated.
It also helped that Naidu, unlike NTR is a more organised person. NTR was emotional and decided on things on the spur of the moment, without thinking them through. Naidu in contrast, is a cunning politician who thinks five steps ahead of his rivals. In the political chessboard of Andhra Pradesh, Naidu went for the queen's head to choke the King.
Compare the NTR-Naidu and the Yadav family spats and you would find them a mirror image of each other. Amar Singh is the Lakshmi Parvathi of the Lucknow edition of the bicycle party war, with Akhilesh just like Chandrababu, describing him as the evil force who is out to destroy the SP. But Mulayam has a soft corner for Amar Singh, who is more of a political broker than a politician, notorious for his wheeling-dealing and and networking skills. Mulayam, like NTR did in the 80s, has always nursed an ambition to become PM and knew that if he is to do a Deve Gowda, he needed the manoeuvring skills of an Amar Singh in Lutyens Delhi.
Like Lakshmi Parvathi, there is Akhilesh's stepmother in the Samajwadi theatre as well — Mulayam Yadav's second wife — making the SP soap opera the mother of all political potboilers.
Unlike Naidu who overthrew NTR after a major assembly election had been won, Akhilesh's options are limited. Uttar Pradesh assembly elections are round the corner and he will have to weigh his options on whether to break the Yadav Fixed Deposit now or renew it for another 4 months till after the elections in February. His immediate plan would be to get Amar Singh out of the picture.
But with uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav, who is pretty much His Brother's voice, backing Amar Singh, the CM is being pushed into a corner. With a large number of MLAs and another uncle Ramgopal Yadav backing Akhilesh, Tipu as he is called may want to announce he is the new Sultan.
Akhilesh, like Naidu was in the 90s, also realises that he is new young and modern face of the SP. And that Mulayam's brand of caste and community politics may have a limited appeal with the younger voters of UP. Given that his hands were tied up by father and uncles, a divorce in this Hindu Undivided Family may just give Akhilesh's bicycle new wings.
Indian political family history is replete with cases of sons revolting against their leader fathers. MK Alagiri tried doing the same with dad Karunanidhi when it looked like brother Stalin would pip him to the top job. But Alagiri's clumsy rebellion did not quite work with the Dravidian leader. HD Kumaraswamy decided to go with the BJP in 2006, much against dad Deve Gowda's wishes but the two subsequently patched up. The suspicion even at that time was that it was a nataka played by the father-son duo in Karnataka to run with the Congress and hunt with the BJP. Like Mulayam-Akhilesh are suspected of doing in UP now.
Two decades after NTR passed away, Naidu does not tire of praising the man whose political career he finished off. Akhilesh is also making the right noises, calling Netaji Mulayam his mentor and someone he will never hurt.
With suspensions galore, the brakes have been put on SP's bid to retain Lucknow. The bicycle clearly needs to go in for an overhaul even while the masters decide who gets to control the handle.
Updated Date: Oct 24, 2016 13:45 PM