On Wednesday, Mulayam Singh Yadav said in the Parliament that he wished to congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mulayam said he respected Modi, blessed him and hoped that he would return as prime minister. The media, happy to have received a scent of a fresh twist in the pre-poll political scenario, pounced on the pronouncement. Was Mulayam rebelling against Akhilesh? Had Akhilesh's hard work in orchestrating an anti-BJP opposition gone to waste? Not for the first time was all not well in the House of Yadav.
The same mistakes made by the family, which could well have led to their downfall in the last Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, could return to plague them ahead of the 2019 National Election.
Formed in 1992, the Samajwadi Party had tied up with the Bahujan Samaj Party in 1993, the first year since its inception, to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party out of power in Uttar Pradesh and grant Mulayam a second term as chief minister. Overtime, Mulayam curated a distinct identity for his party, an essential tenet of which was its opposition to the BJP, the same party he hopes will return now. His trusted lieutenant was always brother Shivpal, who walked in rallies, stood by Mulayam on the dais and also represented SP as leader of Opposition in the Uttar Pradesh
Assembly during the Mayawati regime.
In what Shivpal was happy to allow to be a one-man organisation came their cousin Ram Gopal Yadav. A troublemaker, Ram Gopal has been expelled twice, first by Shivpal and then by Mulayam, but is routinely present at closed door party meetings. All interior strife, however, pale in comparison to the out-and-out battle that was waged by Akhilesh following Shivpal's appointment as SP president in 2016. The chief minister then, Akhilesh had promptly relieved him of his Cabinet portfolios.
The arrival of Akhilesh
Shivpal, along with the SP's oldest faces Azam Khan, had never been one to keep the throne ready for Akhilesh. In 2012, when Mulayam announced his son as the chief minister, both leaders had stirred.
But back then, Mulayam's shadow loomed large over the government, so much so that the entire Cabinet that he headed in 2003-2007 was repeated with the same portfolios in 2012. Shivpal had seemingly found little to worry in what was a Mulayam government headed by Akhilesh.
In the initial years, reported The Economic Times, Akhilesh's office would be populated with Mulayam loyalists -- officers and officials who would peddle his father's ideology. But the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and Akhilesh's inexpert handling of it, led Mulayam to undermine his son's office and instead call a meeting of chief secretary Javed Usmani (who had served Mulayam during his chief ministership), Director General of Police Devraj Nagar and principal secretary of home RM Srivastava (another Mulayam favourite) to control the situation.
Strife that cost an election
While Akhilesh could well have hoped for a retired Mulayam to sink into the background, he did not. At times, he even said lines like, "The CM gets annoyed when people visit my office, akhir ticket to main hi dunga (after all, I am the who will give them the ticket)." In December of 2016, when Akhilesh had removed Shivpal's Cabinet portfolios, Mulayam had made good on his 'ticket' pronouncement and released his own list of SP candidates without consulting Akhilesh.
Akhilesh released his own list and was expelled by his father. With each day throwing up a new development at that time, Mulayam, Akhilesh, Ram Gopal and Shivpal became players in a brisk series of expulsions, inductions, press conferences and party meetings that ended with the Election Commission's involvement. What this drama also ended was the electorate's trust in the SP. Shivpal, an immensely popular leader, walked away and built the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohiya).
Hope of a Congress alliance
As a BJP government took over in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh began to come into his own and has formed a crucial alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party. He calls the BSP supremo Mayawati his bua or aunt. In yet another indication that the family's politics is not one to end, uncle Shivpal has criticised this move and the fact that Akhilesh chose to foist a term used for a family member on an outsider. "Vo na hi behen ji hain? Na Neta ji (Mulayam) ne behen ji banaya, na humne behen ji banaya, toh Akhilesh ki bua kahan se ban gayi?" he was quoted as having said, by ANI.
While Akhilesh is also intent upon forging an alliance with the Congress, his sister-in-law Aparna Yadav has taken their natural bend towards Rahul Gandhi's party a step further. She was quoted by NDTV as having said that had Priyanka been projected as the chief ministerial face, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance would have done much better in the Assembly polls, essentially once again going against Akhilesh.
An excuse for Mulayam
Mulayam is 79 now, at an age when his party leaders allege that he is too old to know what is what. Scroll spoke with leaders who blamed his failing health, memory loss and recent forgetfulness at a rally called by his brother Shivpal where Mulayam sought support for his own party, as reasons why he could have chosen to praise Modi. Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted that when asked outside Parliament as to why he made such a remark, Mulayam had said, "Aisa toh kuch kaha hai hi nahi, bhai!"
When Modi's turn came to speak in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, shrewd politician that he is, he ended his speech by "specially thanking" Mulayam. Shivpal had recently said Mulayam had been "confined forcibly" at home, pointing a silent finger at Akhilesh anchoring the SP's fortunes, reported Times of India.
In the winter of his discontent, the SP patriarch could well be maneouvering a route for himself which is separate from that of the party led by his son.
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Updated Date: Feb 14, 2019 14:34:47 IST