It looks like Mulayam Singh Yadav's attempt to give the prime ministerial post one final shot via a ragtag team of players forming the Third Front, has led him to completely sideline his son, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
It has only been a year and half since he was given charge of Uttar Pradesh as the largest state's youngest chief minister. But close on the heels of the Muzaffarnagar riots termed as UP's most serious communal conflagration since the 1992-1993 riots, Akhilesh has been all but sidelined as the Samajwadi Party prepares for Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
The mishandling of the riots has left the SP not only red faced, but in the aftermath of the 100-plus rioting incidents in the state since Akhilesh took charge, at least two Members of Parliament have refused to recontest on a ticket from the party. The Muzaffarnagar riots have also led Muslims in Uttar Pradesh -- an important constituency for the Samajwadi Party's Muslim-Yadav thrust -- very vocal about their mistrust of the SP government.
Mulayam, who has not shied away from rapping Akhilesh on the knuckles including in the case of the Muzaffarnagar riots which he called "unfortunate", has taken the centre stage in the planning and executing of the Samajwadi Party's much-hyped series of rallies -- Desh Bachao Desh Banao -- in the run-up to next years Lok Sabha polls. Akhilesh meanwhile, has been reduced to handling publicity and communication.
A report in The Indian Express says Mulayam who had launched Akhilesh in as the "young face" of the party, is now "urging the electorate not to punish him for the wrongs committed by the party's ministers, MLA or MPs".
Akhilesh had blended the privilege of dynastic politics with his urbane, secular mobilisation of the masses during the 2012 UP Assembly polls, which the SP won under his stewardship with a more than convincing margin.
The “other" prince as he came to be known, (the original of course being Rahul Gandhi) became CM at the age of 38, holds a master’s degree, keeps a range of music handy on his iPod, and has a distinctly urban lifestyle. He couldn't be more different from wrestler-turned politician father Mulayam Singh Yadav and also from fiery Dalit leader Mayawati who he vanquished in 2012.
Things in UP have gone downhill since those polls. His handling of the riots and of the Durga Shakti Nagpal case are only two examples. In the first, Akhilesh permitted baffling, dangerous inaction by the state government and in the latter, flagrant double standards.
Little wonder then that Netaji, as Mulayam is known, now believes voters will prefer a 73-year-old leader, a former 'pehelwan' who has practised his politics on a cocktail of caste and realpolitik.
On Sunday, Mulayam was defending the UP government's decision to provide compensation of Rs 5 lakh only to Muslims affected in the Muzaffarnagar riots.
Appearing to respond to the SC's strictures on the government for differentiating in compensation paid to riot-victims of different communities, Mulayam said there were Muslims who lost not only their possessions but also didn't want to return from the rehabilitation camps.
A report in The Hindu quoted him as saying: “What has happened is unfortunate and the lives lost cannot be returned, but we can at least provide succour to the affected families. Sixteen non-Muslims and 47 Muslims lost their lives in the clashes."
A PTI report said Mulayam also claimed that the state government had ensured that policemen are recruited from the minority community, even though the Central government was yet to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee.
Mulayam was speaking in Delhi to mark celebrations for his 74th birthday. In fact, his birthday celebration has itself been a low-key affair until last year, according to a report in The Times of India.
Celebrated with "great fanfare" this Saturday at the party's headquarters in Lucknow, "apart from party offices in almost all the 75 districts of the state", the report said, Mulayam wanted party workers to ensure victory in at least 75 of the state's 80 parliamentary seats in the 2014 general elections. "That will give a meaning to these celebrations," Mulayam was quoted as saying.
A radio-taxi service launch, the foundation stone for a super speciality cancer hospital, a 75 kg cake, a 100-meter long greeting card and a series of cultural events marked the celebrations.
'Netaji' is leaving nobody in doubt that he is now in charge for 2014, from assuming centrestage at the rallies to meeting district-level leaders personally and reaching out to traditional SP voters.
From law and order, to handling a state fraught by deep caste and community divisions, Akhilesh has bared his inexperience too often. And with hopes of a being the most important player in a Third Front or as a kingmaker of sorts in the state where the verdict of 2014 is almost certain to be written, Mulayam has clearly given his son a 'failed' report card.
Updated Date: Nov 25, 2013 19:13:53 IST