Less than two-and-a-half years ago, Akhilesh Yadav ruled Uttar Pradesh with an overwhelming majority in the state Assembly. His supporters and sympathisers hailed him as the future, not just of the state, but of the country. Each move he made to marginalise his elders, including his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Yadav, from positions of power and influence was taken as the valiant fight of a young idealist who, despite being a dynast, was working to cleanse the system of entrenched interests.
His move to befriend Rahul Gandhi and align with the Congress for the 2017 Assembly elections and give it 100 seats was again hailed as the move of a gutsy young man who had the capability of putting the interests of the state ahead of the party.
Akhilesh's supporters praised him for being innovative and claimed he would sweep the BJP's "communal politics" out of the Hindi heartland. Instead, the Samajwadi Party, Congress and BSP were routed, being reduced to their lowest-ever numbers in the Assembly. The BJP, on the other hand, got a three-fourths majority in the 402-member Assembly.
In January, Akhilesh supporters and sympathisers asked him to swallow his pride, take a step back and align with his arch-rival Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party. Akhilesh used to taunt Mayawati by calling her bua (aunt) and she returned the favour by calling him babua (kid).
What some saw as capitulation and surrender on part of the Samajwadi Party chief, first to the Congress in 2016 and then to BSP, his admirers hailed as political prudence. Mayawati's grand reception in Mainpuri (on Mulayam and Akhilesh's home turf) to launch the coalition’s joint campaign and Akhilesh’s wife Dimple touching Mayawati’s feet to seek her blessings was, yet again seen as a sign of Akhilesh's maturity and foresightedness. His supporters hailed his attempts to turn a political alliance into a social alliance to fight the enemy: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Even as exit polls emerged and the results were awaited Akhilesh’s supporters — rather prematurely — hailed his emergence as a true leader who has the touch of sagacity and realism. This 18 May Firstpost piece entitled Akhilesh Yadav is the politician to look out for no matter magnitude of his success in 2019 elections opened by stating: “Regardless of whether the grand alliance of the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal succeeds in denying the Bharatiya Janata Party a rich harvest of seats in Uttar Pradesh, the 2019 Lok Sabha election has established Akhilesh Yadav as the leader of the future. His sagacity and realism are the principal reasons why the alliance has become the foremost impediment to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which won 73 seats out 80 in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, from returning to power.”
Even more embarrassing was when Mayawati reminded Akhilesh that his leadership and election management skill was such that even his wife Dimple and cousins Dharmendra and Akshay lost elections from Yadav-dominated constituencies of Kannauj, Badaun and Ferozabad. Even family patriarch Mulayam’s victory was not comforting as the BJP candidate Prem Singh Shakya secured over 4.30 lakh votes against him. If this was the pattern in Yadav-dominated areas, one could well imagine how Akhilesh failed in securing Yadav votes — his core social support base — in other constituencies.
Akhilesh remains Samajwadi Party’s national president, but the irony is that none of the four other Samajwadi Party MPs (Mulayam Singh Yadav, Azam Khan, Shafiqur Rehman Barq and ST Hasan) are going to follow his diktats in Parliament. Khan, Barq and Hasan have won from seats which have over 40 percent Muslim electorate.
The impact of Mayawati unilaterally calling off the gathbandhan, even temporarily, was such that Akhilesh was at a complete loss for words. All he could say is that he is going to mull things over.
The BJP vowed to make it a 50 percent election and got over 50 percent votes, securing 64 seats (two for ally Apna Dal). Samjawadi Party was the biggest loser, though it retained its previous numbers, the defeat of Akhilesh's wife and cousins diminished the family aura and prestige. Samajwadi Party vote share went down to 18 percent as Mayawati's vote share went up to 19.3 percent and her number of seats went from zero to 10.
Even worse, Mayawati has put Akhilesh on notice. That is to say if Akhilesh can improve both as a leader and motivator to the Yadav support base, she'd consider making him an ally. What would trouble the Samajwadi Party chief and Akhilesh's supporters most is that Mayawati said all this in a televised statement.
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Updated Date: Jun 04, 2019 22:34:04 IST