Editor's Note: There are known unknowns, unknown knowns and known knowns. And then there’s all that Ajay Singh knows. Firstpost’s executive editor mines his decades-long experience reporting on politics to tell stories from the heartland that even Google can’t unearth.
Chaudhary Charan Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s mentor, was as much in love with Azamgarh, a town of eastern Uttar Pradesh, as jat-dominated Meerut and Agra. In seventies he forged a formidable coalition of intermediary castes that were primarily agrarian and had coalesced into a solid political force.
His love for Azamagarh emanated from the fact that the district was dominated by Yadav castes whose political conduct was critical for Chaudhary’s future course in seventies. Though a Jat himself, Chaudhary emerged as undisputed leader of Yadavs across the state. Mulayam was his understudy then.
Mulayam closely watched the game of political perfidy and brinkmanship that saw toppling of Charan Singh government backed by the Congress. After a series of deft manoeuvres, Chaudhary, his formidable foe CB Gupta and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) came together to prop up a non-Congress government led by TN Singh on 18 October 1970.
But then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was equally determined to topple the TN Singh government by all means. And for the first time, she deployed her personal secretary Yashpal Kapoor to do everything and anything to ensure the collapse of the anti-Congress coalition. Kapoor was assisted in his game by redoubtable former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh DP Mishra.
Lucknow, then turned out to be a place of intense intrigues with two prominent hotels of the city, Carlton Hotel and Kapoor's in Hazratganj, hosting lavish parties to engineer defection. After her landslide victory in 1971 when Indira Gandhi won 73 odd Lok Sabha seats out of 85 in Uttar Pradesh, she escalated her efforts and toppled the TN Singh government.
The entire episode vividly described in Paul R Brass' third volume of Charan Singh’s biography — An Indian Political Life: Charan Singh and Congress Politics — marks that period as beginning of the "profound corruption of the Indian political system" and introduction of the "suit-case culture". Yashpal Kapoor was accused of carrying suitcases of money to lure in legislators and engineer revolt.
In Brass' book, TN Singh was quoted as saying about the treachery and betrayal of his confidants as , "The same people who, few days ago, came to me with tears in their eyes that I should not resign… those same people started deserting one by one. And all kinds of other methods were adopted, it is for investigators to say…But he (Kapoor) was remaining there for a long time when he was private secretary to the prime minister". Of course in those days, the prize of changing political allegiance varied from Rs 40.000 to Rs one lakh for each MLA. And all this was done directly under the supervision of Indira Gandhi.
Though Indira Gandhi succeeded in her design to wrest UP from anti-Congress coalition, Chaudhary continued to challenge her at every stage of her political life since then. He deeply distrusted the Congress and aligned with them only tactically to gain maximum advantage out of it. He was quite mindful of antagonistic social bases of both the parties and shunned electoral alliance to preserved his distinctness of his politics.
In today’s context, it is pertinent to recall the history to point out that the reason for Mulayam's skepticism over any alliance with the Congress. Mulayam graduated from Chaudhary's school of politics and followed his opportunistic patterns to retain and widen his political base. Like his mentor, Mulayam was as much fascinated by Azamgarh as Etawah. In 2014 Lok Sabha election, he chose to represent Azamgarh only to make himself acceptable not only among Yadavs but also among agrarian castes of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
In the past four decades, Mulayam has built his political capital by dint of hard work and matchless political guile. He forged a rainbow coalition of Muslim-Yadav and backward castes to rightfully claim the political inheritance of his mentor and pushing the latter’s son Ajit Singh to political margin. In nineties contrary to Chaudhary’s rustic and rural appearance, Ajit Singh was suave, soft-spoken and US-educated engineer who returned Indian to take his father’s mantle. But ultimately what he inherited was a moth-eaten political legacy of his father.
In politics, perception is often illusion and mis-steps lead to fatal fall. Akhilesh's alliance with Rahul Gandhi may create a catchy headlines but its efficacy in forging a social coalition is yet to be seen on the ground. And there is hardly any guarantee that suitcase culture that threatened to topple Chaudhary Charan Singh in seventies would not come into play in a different manner and blur the distinctness that Chaudhary and Mulayam had so assiduously maintained. But there is little doubt that if Akhilesh loses this election, he would run the risk of becoming another Ajit Singh of UP politics.
Updated Date: Feb 10, 2017 16:57 PM