Teepu The Sultan!


Successful launch of Akhilesh’s rath yatra indicates about the end of Shivpal’s dream

Pictures: Rath Yatra of Akhilesh Yadav; Akhilesh Yadav with Rahul Gandhi

By Asit Manohar

Amid speculations of rift engulfed between the uncles and nephew of the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh and none of them paying heed to their patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav’s rath yatra has reinforced an old rule of Indian politics: In the end, Bairam Khan always gets sidelined and Akbar gets to control his father’s legacy.

The UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav does not like being compared to Aurangzeb. Comparisons with a monarch, who usurps the throne from his father and banishes him to a prison, hurt him. But Akhilesh might not mind being his story being compared to Akbar’s.

Like the Mughal emperor, Akhilesh whose pet name is Teepu became a ruler at a young age, though in more fortuitous circumstances. And, like Akbar, during the early years of his government, Teepu too was dominated by his powerful regents — whom he used to call uncle from his childhood and like Akbar, Akhilesh too continued to call them the same even during the cabinet meeting as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

But, Bairam Khans rarely last in politics once the young ruler grows in age, stature and experience; once they start yearning for independence and greater control. On Thursday, as Akhilesh launched his rath yatra from Lucknow, it became evident that he had got rid of his Bairam Khan to emerge as the undisputed leader of the Samajwadi Party and undisputed heir to his father’s legacy.

The signs of his complete dominance were evident. Setting aside the recent acrimony within the family, father Mulayam Singh smiled beatifically as the son announced his plans to vanquish the BJP and return to power. Chacha Shivpal, who, till a few days ago, was vying with Akhilesh to control the party and the government stood alongside, telling workers to unite behind the chief minister. On the stage was a bevy of youth leaders who had been sacked by Shivpal a fortnight ago. And his pet peeve, the perceived villain of the political soap opera Amar Singh was nowhere in sight.

It is obvious that the family has resigned to the fait accompli of Akhilesh Yadav being the face and future of the Samajwadi Parivar. And Shivpal — who once led the regents of young Akhilesh cabinet — will henceforth walk under Akhilesh’s flag for some time and, when the time is right, like Bairam Khan, be sent on a pilgrimage.

The denouement is on expected lines. Such are the established ethos of Indian society that a father rarely passes on his inheritance to a brother if he has an eligible son. If Shivpal was expecting Mulayam to banish Akhilesh, he was ignoring hundreds of years of traditional wisdom. In this whole slugfest, Shivpal should have toed his professor cousin Ramgopal Yadav — who remained rock solid behind Akhilesh Yadav even when he was in SP and when he is not in the party — rather sacking him from the party.

Shivpal’s other problem, to use a dart Mulayam threw at Akhilesh during the public brawl at the party’s silver jubilee celebrations, was that he had no political haisiyat (standing). Shivpal was reminded of his lack of stature several times over the past few days when his efforts to reach out to the Congress, Nitish Kumar and other anti-BJP parties were cruelly snubbed. Shivpal’s failure to get even a single party to ally with the divided Samajwadis must have reminded Mulayam of the futility of stoking the ambitions of his brother. In contrast, Akhilesh managed a heavy hand behind him when Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi send Prashant Kishor to meet Mulayam Singh Yadav with a message that Congress may think of an alliance with SP provided the socialite announces Akhilesh as their CM face — an alliance which even Amar Singh failed to win for the party in 2004 Lok Sabha polls, a time when his voice had become synonymous with Mulayam Singh Yadav. 

The successful launch of Akhilesh rath yatra is definitely the end of Shivpal’s dream of ruling Uttar Pradesh. He may henceforth sulk and rebel, but will find himself tethered to Akhilesh’s destiny, unless, of course, he decides to do a Ramkripal and join the BJP or some other party.

Ironically, the unified Yadav parivar would be a source of relief for the very party they have vowed to defeat in the next election–the BJP. Shivpal and Mulayam’s apparent surrender has ensured that the Samajwadi Party will not split before the elections. It will remain a viable political force and ensure that elections become a triangular fight, a scenario that suits the BJP.

However, from the Samajwadi Party perspective, this slugfest has helped the ruling party a lot. It has changed the agenda of the fast approaching state assembly elections as nobody is talking about the anti-incumbency that could have gone against the SP. The nephew-uncle scabbard helped Akhilesh to polish his image as progressive youth leader who is non-compromising when it comes to corruption and development. By raising his voice against leaders like Ansari brothers and Amar Singh in the party Akhilesh has successfully scaled his popularity graph among the youth — a sizable voter who has shown signs of voting pattern beyond the caste and creed in 2014 Lok Sabha polls that helped Modi give unexpected success to the BJP. Some recent surveys also indicted the same about the outcome of the Akhilesh-Shivpal slugfest. So, in the end we can say that the SP will not split. But the anti-BJP vote will.

That’s where the similarities with Akbar may end for Akhilesh. Like Bairam Khan, he too may be forced to proceed on a political hajj for a few years.