The Samajwadi Scabbard

Samajwadi Party

In this slugfest, CM Akhilesh Yadav whose nickname is Teepu has emerged real Sultan who is set to take the socialist legacy mooted by Mulaym Singh Yadav 25 years ago

By anil anand
All is yet not over in the family soap opera that has unfolded on stage set in Lucknow. It has all the ingredients viz emotion, drama, sleaze, action and reaction. But what it betrays is any indication of whether the ending would be happy or tragic. The die seems to have been caste with socialist patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav perhaps fighting last ditched battle of his long political career to save the family ship- Samajwadi Party- and more importantly stay relevant amidst the sweeping winds of generational shift.

There have been reports of rumblings within the Mulayam parivar for quite some time. These emanate from time to time and the trigger every time had been the mercurial lobbyist cum politician Amar Singh. There is not much change in the context of the dispute even this time around as characters and script remains the same. The only change has been that it has come splashing on a wider public canvas, trigger of course being Amar Singh again, and the timing.

The wily political fox that Mulayam Singh Yadav is, he would have easily withered such a storm that is threatening to sweep his political legacy off feat, had it occurred at some other time. Coming few months before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, he finds himself caught in a strange situation which to a great extent is of his own making.

At a time when he should have hit the roads canvassing for Samajwadi Party in a bid to retain power in the state, Mulayam Singh Yadav is cocooned in his Lucknow residence trying to resolve the jigsaw puzzle complicated by brother versus son one-up-manship. Amar Singh still remains to be the central piece of dispute. In the past Mulayam had proved his mettle as a shrewd tactician of that political chess board successfully checkmating his rivals and building a family fiefdom out of Samajwadi Party with none in the family having courage to raise even an eyebrow.

WAR WITHIN FOUR WALLS

It was a glorious journey of 25 years of Samajwadi Party’s existence that saw him presiding over the state three times, in between becoming Defence Minister of India and Prime Minisership barely a knock away. But the family rumblings which are now splattered in the streets of Lucknow and elsewhere in UP, has certainly left a bad taste in his mouth at a time. It has certainly left a bad taste in his mouth as at this time he should have been merrily celebrating silver jubilee of the party which he created and painstakingly nurtured.
Mulayam Singh Yadav would certainly be the cynosure of all eyes when standing before a capacity crowd gathered from nook and corner of UP for November 5 silver jubilee celebrations. But the lion seemed to have lost punch in his roar. He had faced many a storms in his political life and emerged victorious but not this one which is of a more dangerous variety as its epicenter lies in the Safai home of the Yadavs. And the ones triggering it are his own nears and dears.

It would have been easier for the Smajawadi Party patriarch to wither the storm had it been confined to the four-walls of his Safai home. But it has become a daunting task to tackle the situation in the light of a public spat between his powerful brother Shivpal Singh Yadav and chief minister son Akhilesh Yadav. The situation leading to the two chief ministerial hopefuls in the post 2017 Assembly elections snatching microphone and sniping at each other must be something that Mulayam Singh Yadav would never have fathomed and would certainly like to forget.

The function, gathering of state functionaries and legislators of Samajwadi Party, was ordinarily meant to take stock of November 5 silver jubilee celebrations and also to discuss situation vis-a-vis coming Assembly polls. No one had ever realised that chacha-bhatija spat would take the form of an open war and become sole agenda of the meet.

SCRIPTED CONCEPT

Mulayam Singh Yadav is a past master in writing and dramatising political scripts and if his old associates are to be believed everything in his political dictionary is well scripted if not rehearsed properly. But this time around something seems to have gone terribly wrong either with the script or its enactment. Fault in either case lies with him and none else.

Both chief minister Akhilesh and his minister (now expelled) Shivpal had an uneasy relation was a well-known fact. The function was held in the backdrop of lot of bad blood created between the two and preceded by expulsions and counter expulsions of each other’s close aides. A major trembler was showing exit door to Ram Gopal Yadav, a Rajya Sabha MP and cousin of Mulayam Singh Yadav. Incidentally, the former has been backing nephew Akhilesh and like him vehemently opposing Amar Singh. So enemy’s (read Amar Singh) enemy became fellow travellers alongside two being close family relatives.

So the battle lines were drawn with Akhilesh- Ram Gopal on one side and Shivpal (supporting Amar Singh) and backed solidly, at least this was the public impression, by Mulayam Singh Yadav. It is unbelievable for anyone to suggest that Akhilesh was totally unscripted by his father in the run up to the Assembly elections or that he was not in reckoning for second term as chief minister in his father’s scheme of things if the Samajwadi Party romped home victorious.

But the turn of events have a lot to suggest that the script or its dramatisation went terribly wrong somewhere from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s point of view also. The meeting of SP’s rank and file convened by the supremo at the party headquarters on October 24 saw some extraordinary scenes that resulted in further hardening of positions between the rival camps of Akhilesh and Shivpal.

WRONG EXPERIMENT

The battle hardened Mulayam haplessly watched as the two went microphone snatching and Shivpal in particular went to the extent of calling his chief minister nephew a liar in full public view. It all happened before a loyal army of workers drawn from all levels- zila panchayat to elected legislators up to the stature of MPs. The counter-sloganeering by the rival factions brought the vertical divide open in public domain while the creator of the Samajwadi Party had nowhere to hide.

Mulayam Singh Yadav in his address launched a scathing diatribe against his own CM-son criticising his style of functioning and leveling charges of mis-governance and corruption against him. He even went to the extent of questioning Akhilesh’s credentials as a socialist. At the same time he heaped praises on his (Akhilesh’s) arch rivals Shivpal and Amar Singh describing them as a grassroots leader and a saviour respectively.

Nonetheless, credit still goes to Akhilesh, in fact it was the only silver lining of the entire show, for making a calculated and emotive speech directed more at father-son relationship and pin-pointing Amar Singh as someone who was out to create cleavage in the Yadav family. He almost choked for words during his 13-minute speech while assuring that he has nothing but respect for his dad and ‘guru’ Mulayam Singh Yadav, but he cannot remain silent when conspiracies are being hatched to demolish the party.

AKHILESH IN AWE

Akhilesh relied heavily on his image of an honest administrator-politician to build a counter pressure on his battle hardened father. “Merey pita, merey guru hain (my father is my guru)” he said. “Let netaji (Mulayam) install a chief minister who he feels is honest…Why should I form a new party?” he posed in a broken voice. Not only did he present himself as an honest person but also as a dutiful son which he tried to prove by quoting instances of carrying forward his father’s orders in reinstating the controversial minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati and bureaucrat Deepak Singhal “against own wishes”, adding: “I have no stakes in this party. You have helped me reach dizzying heights. Everything I have is given to me by you.”

Strategically, Akhilesh proved his mettle better than anyone else in the show. Putting the rumours of splitting the Samajwadi Party behind his back, as such a move could have created a reverse emotion as he would be seen as disobedient and the one backstabbing his own father, he played with a straight bat. Not only did he quell all rumours painting him as someone revolting against his father but also compelled him to see reason and refrain from ousting him from chief minister’s chair.

In fact, the just 40 plus Akhilesh attempted to play big and succeeded to a great extent. It was unthinkable till the other day to perceive anyone standing up to and politically daring Mulayam Singh Yadav and more so his own son. This single episode created an opportunity and he lapped it up. Akhilesh has definitely emerged out of his father-uncles combine’s shadow readying himself for an innings which would run much beyond the coming Assembly elections. Win or lose this is advantage Akhilesh.

In turn Shivpal left no one in doubt by not only praising but rating Amar Singh much higher than those criticising him. It seems here-in he was acting to his elder brother’s script in giving star rating to Amar Singh. It could be borne out by the dogged defence and wholesome praise which Mulayam Singh heaped on Amar Singh even at the cost of publically rebuking and insulting his son. Naturally, the only course left to Shivpal was to dutifully follow ‘Netaji’, if he were to stay in reckoning.

CORRUPT VERSUS NONCORRUPT

One strong aspect of the story, if at all scripted by Mulayam Singh Yadav, is its theme of a corrupt versus non corrupt or a good versus evil fight in the true spirit of the land of Lord Rama’s birth. Many believe that the script, from very beginning was meant to project Akhilesh as the good doer suitably backed by the clean image that he enjoys as chief minister and rest all sticking on the collar of Shivpal.

Somehow, Mulayam Singh seems to have lost the art of changing the script midstream in the face of suddenly changing wind directions. At least it was direly needed during the course of November 24, 2016 function. More importantly, he forgot to act as a patriarch if not a statesman in dealing with his own family members and that “outsider” Amar Singh. As a founder of the Samajwadi party, now in the twilight of his political career, though he may state that he has not weakened yet ( mein abhi kamzor nahin huan hoon), he could have used the stage perfectly to strengthen his status as a non-partisan patriarch. It should have been reflected both in his criticism as well as praise.

In the ultimate scenario his no-holds-bar criticism of Akhilesh and wholesome praise particularly of Amar Singh further deepened the divide between the rival factions dashing hopes that his words would provide a calming effect. The subsequent events bear it out that things have now spun out of hands even for Mulayam Singh Yadav to easily control.

Even his close aides admit that the political script has gone terribly wrong with just less than six months left for Assembly elections. Little did the Yadav senior realise that in the over half-a century of his political life he was in the midst of a transition period within Samajwadi Party and his own family. The younger generation was raring to go and needed space to experiment with its own ideas.

More than four years of chief ministership was a tightrope walk for Akhilesh as he was constantly working under the gaze and nag of his father and uncles who at no stage were prepared to let him try new ideas particularly on the political front. It is to Akhilesh’s credit that not only did he remain unscathed but carved a niche for himself as an honest politician willing to demolish the sleazy ways of caste and religion based politics and create discourse based on development.

Not used to accepting either his failures or anyone else’s style if not diktat, Mulayam Singh Yadav was perhaps expecting much from his son in forcing him, to adopt his traditional ways of politicking. Probably, he either ignored or missed out on an emerging alternate thought process within his own family-party. Rather than working out a strategy to ensure smooth generational transition through conciliation of ideas, he, perhaps, chose a rather brackish way to promote his son while refusing to look through the younger Yadav’s prism.

MULAYAM’S AMARPREM

Amar Singh might be down at times but not out at all. It was amply reflected in the latest Yadav family feud. The core of his strength is Mulayam Singh Yadav and he left no one in doubt about his preferences by preferring ‘adopted brother’ Amar Singh over real son Akhilesh. Even if it was for public consumption, it was in a bad taste.

Mulayam and Amar are inseparable and it has been stated time and again by the former. There are reasons, political and otherwise, behind this relationship. It is rather ironic that Mulayam feels indebted to his ‘brother’, for his own political growth even if it was in terms of networking or resourcefulness. The overreliance on an “outsider” as his son Akhilesh describes Amar Singh, seems to be extracting its own price.

The greater connectivity of Amar Singh in Delhi’s high power circles and Mumbai’s commercial world had made him more relevant in ‘pehlwan’ Mulayam’s plans of political growth. Amar’s “resourcefulness” did become a negative trait and it has happened once again in the Yadav family context.

Ostensibly, Akhilesh Yadav has been nurturing his own ideas of political growth and means to achieve that. It could be that for him “resourcefulness and political networking” had different meaning than what reflected in his father’s lexicon. So, it was natural that he differed point by point with chacha Amar Singh. Since Akhilesh refused to rely on the chacha for these factors, it was but natural that the latter tried his clout with Mulayam, initially to tame him and lately worked for his removal as chief minister as is being alleged.
He and Mulayam Singh Yadav seem to have a common trait. And that is to be accepted at their face value from generation to generation and for all times to come. From Ambanis, Bachchans to Yadavs, Amar Singh has perhaps tried to impose this trait and ended up getting bruised though he might not admit so.

In Yadav family’s case, Amar Singh committed the same mistake as Mulayam did. Little did he realise that in Akhilesh he was dealing with a gen-next politician with thinking and ideas different from the old socialist warhorse. In Mulayam Singh Yadav he found someone as gullible who could publically rubbish his own son holding a constitutional post, with his younger brother (Shivpal) ready to go to any extent in berating his nephew to uphold Amar Singh. This provided enough strength and encouragement to him to ultimately spell a disaster for Samajwadi Party.

It is as a result that on the threshold of Assembly elections, which could be make or break for the party, the Samajwadi Party is standing on the crossroads. Even if its wily founder manages to keep the party intact, irreparable damage has already been done to its electoral future. From here on, it would be a miracle if Akhilesh and Shivpal are able to work in tandem. The sniping began hours after Mulayam Singh Yadav claimed normalcy both in the party as well the family. Expulsion from the party of a minister close to Akhilesh by UP unit head Shivpal Singh provided an index that more was to unfold.

SHIVPAL-AMAR COCKTAIL

Mulayam Singh Yadav clearly seemed to be working under Amar Singh-Shivapal Yadav pressure. This is one reason that he stopped short of projecting Akhilesh as the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the Assembly polls. This was just another flip-flop and a dichotomy which has deepened confusion among rank and file as he had on earlier occasions left no one in doubt about Akhilesh’s candidature.

Clearly, Samajwadi Party has been weakened by the inner strife. This intriguing twist has thrown the election scene wide open as against the perceived Samajwadi Party versus Bahujan Samajwadi contest with BJP desperately bidding to come to power and Congress under Rahul Gandhi making frantic efforts to emerge as a player of some consequence.

A weakened Samajwadi Party clearly means that chances for a ‘mahagathbandan’ have remerged. A joint fight to defeat communal forces, as lately stated by Shivpal Singh, is a clear indication that his party would find it hard to go alone. Indications are that channels have already been opened with Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal with support base in Western UP and Congress.

There is an uneasy truce in the Samajwadi Party. It is unlikely that any prospective ally would act in a haste to join hands with the party till the contours of power structure are clearly defined. Contrary to earlier scenario where Mulayam Singh Yadav was the only power centre, now any political party wishing to join hands would have to strongly fathom the Akhilesh factor as well.

After all both the likely allies RLD and Congress are in the process of a similar generational transformation. RLD chief Ajit Singh’s prime target in Assembly elections would be to cement his son Jayant Chaudhary’s place. Who could miss the mutual praise-club of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh as both have publically admired each other on more than one occasion?

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