UP Election 2017: Narendra Modi's elephantine memory shines light on Mulayam's past

Prime Minister Narendra Modi can justifiably claim to have an elephantine memory. His recall of the event in 1984 when the attack on Mulayam Singh Yadav was linked to a Congress leader was out of the ordinary. He dipped into the forgotten pages of history bearing eminent significance in today’s context.

Politics is all about either erasing or creating memories. And Modi’s efforts to revive old memories are unlikely to go in vain. In a media-created hubris after the formation of the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance, people tend to forget the uncanny tendency of history to haunt you. And there is little doubt that Mulayam had fought his life’s bitterest battle with the Congress.

File image of former SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI

File image of former SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI

Remember the legendary fight between Congress leader Balram Singh Yadav and Mulayam in Etawah which claimed many a lives. The Darshan Singh versus Mulayam feud became the stuff of legend in the late 1980s. But what appeared to be toughest battle for Mulayam’s survival took place when VP Singh was the chief minister.

In his zeal to stamp out banditry from Chambal-Yamuna ravines, VP Singh had launched one of the most ruthless operation in his term as Uttar Pradesh chief minister from 1980-1982. The police was given a free hand to pick and kill even on suspicion of being remotely associated with formidable gangs from the ravines. And Mulayam became an easy target.

In fact, Indira Gandhi then realised the destablising potential of the emergence of backward class leadership — that was then symbolised by Chaudhary Charan Singh. Mulayam was an understudy of Chaudhary with a lot of political potential. In the politics of the ravines — comprising Etawah, Etah, Kanpur Dehat, Agra and parts of western Uttar Pradesh, those who command men and muscle dominate politics. In 1980, there was a paradigm shift in social and political equations as OBC leaders like Mulayam challenged the supremacy of upper caste Rajputs and Brahmins in the region.

Needless to say that Mulayam was then surviving on a day-to-day basis in one of his fiercest battles, the one against VP Singh. This was the man who ironically donned the mantle of "Mandal messiah" some years later and proclaimed himself to be the defender of OBC rights. Shivpal Yadav was then Mulayam's constant companion, who often took brazen risks to save the brother’s life. Perhaps VP Singh, as a chief minister, had altered the face of UP politics quite radically by introducing extra-judicial executions and criminalising the governance in the garb of legality.

Since then, Mulayam found himself always on the run while dealing with the successive Congress regimes — except for that of ND Tiwari, whose socialist credentials gave a certain degree of solace to Mulayam. Perhaps tough lessons of political life in the ravines resolutely reaffirmed Mulayam’s faith in Sicilian values where loyalty is treasured and betrayal is not forgiven.

This is the precise why Mulayam has never forgiven VP Singh though he worked with him when the latter raised a banner of revolt against Rajiv Gandhi. Mulayam chose to side with Chandrashekhar and fought against VP Singh even within the Opposition camp. Similarly he always resisted any move to give strength to the Congress.

Just jog your memory if you have forgotten how he pulled the rug from under Sonia Gandhi’s feet when she proclaimed her victory after the defeat of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999 by just one vote in the Lok Sabha. A jubilant Sonia declared outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan that she had the support of "272 MPs" only to realise that Mulayam had withdrawn support. And there is no doubt that Mulayam’s stance triggered yet another round of a bitter political war between the Congress and Mulayam from 1999 to 2009 in which Mulayam was hounded by the Congress and had faced an existential crisis until he resurrected himself like a proverbial political phoenix.

That history is also replete with elements of intrigues, suspense and betrayal which will make an interesting reading in the backdrop of new found bonhomie between the so-called “UP ke ladke (Rahul and Akhilesh)”.

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Updated Date: Feb 16, 2017 13:44:49 IST

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