No Grand Alliance in UP?

Akhilesh Yadav’s calculation that any alliance with Ajit Singh may irk Muslims has put an end to speculations of Bihar like ‘grand alliance’ formation in Uttar Pradesh assembly polls

Picture: Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sharad Yadav and other Samajwadi leaders; Mayawati at Agra Rally

By Anil Anand

After the split it is bonding time for the Mulayam Singh Yadav family. Frantic efforts are on to fill the cleavages created by father-son and father-uncles dispute within the Yadav clan lest it hits the Samajwadi Party and its founder-patriarch hard in the coming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. 

The unfolding story till now is that chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, after successfully coming out of his father’s dominant shadow has patched up with his real uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav whom he had expelled from the cabinet. The second part of the story is that his vehement supporter and cousin Uncle Prof Ram Goapal Yadav’s expulsion from the party has been revoked and he regains his powerful position as not only intellectual face of Samajwadi Party but also its leader in Rajya Sabha. The foot-note is that maverick Amar Singh, who was blamed by Akhilesh for breaking the Yadav family, has happily accepted the situation.

In the true Bollywood style the story has happily ended for the Yadav family. The other part of the story that had earlier began with a thunder but ended with a whimper on more than one occasion is still to unfold itself. It pertains to electoral strategy of the Samajwadi Party in the light of these disturbing developments and aiming at minimizing the electoral losses.

The second part of the story is based on whether Samajwadi Party would contest the elections alone or the much talked about grand alliance (Mahagathbandan) woven around Mulayam Singh Yadav could still become a possibility.  For such an alliance to succeed in terms of checkmating Narendra Modi led BJP, it is imperative for the arch rivals Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati led BSP to join hands. This is something which looks difficult at this stage but nothing can be construed as impossible in the realm of politics.

The shoddy process of demonetization heralded by Prime Minister Modi that led to de-circulation of high value currency notes of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 denominations has certainly given a reason to political parties opposed to BJP to join hands or form a front. Since the demonetization process happened just ahead of winter Session of Parliament it provided an immediate platform for the non-BJP opposition parties close ranks and fight against BJP and Modi-led government.

But there still is an imponderable over this unity percolating down to the states particularly politically complex and poll bound Uttar Pradesh. This complexity has been further compounded by the Yadav family rivalry that came out in the streets of Lucknow. But there was a silver lining too as the divided Yadav clan made overtures for an alliance with like-minded parties even as the differences were in the midst of being cemented again.

Leaving aside the traditional Mulayam-Mayawati rivalry, even the other stakeholders in the possible ‘Mahagathbandan’ are not much enthused to join hands beyond the precincts of Parliament House. Some of them did share platform with Mulayam Singh Yadav during 25th foundation day celebrations of Samajwadi Party but open spat between Akhilesh and Shivpal robbed the show even of an optical opportunity to show opposition unity.

Although Janata Dal (U) has not much presence in UP but its undisputed leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has to be a key player if any unity worth the name has to be achieved even without Mayawati. Up till now Kumar has been silently watching the unity efforts from sidelines and has avoided any direct effort at that. The JD (U) has been represented in unity moves either through Sharad Yadav or former Rajya Sabha lawmaker KC Tyagi as both enjoy close relation with Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Nitish Kumar as Bihar chief minister and a socialist leader with clean image could wield some influence in Eastern UP bordering Bihar. His total silence on the grand alliance issue is raising serious doubts about its prospects particularly when only less than three months are left for the elections. There are strong possibilities that confabulations between Samajwadi Party, Congress, and Rashtriya Janata Dal of former Union Minister Ajit Singh could start anytime now.

There is still no clarity on how Nitish Kumar is viewing his role in this opposition unity. He would certainly not throw his hat in UP cauldron at the cost of his political survival in Bihar. His silence becomes more interesting amidst the reports of growing chasm between him and his ruling alliance partner Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Since Nitish had headed a JD (U)-BJP combine government in Bihar before splitting, he would seriously asses his relationship with RJD. At the same time he might not do anything in haste that closes his option to make a common cause with BJP once again in Bihar to remain in power. The fact that he was the first to welcome Prime Minister Modi’s demonetization move, is a clear pointer in this direction.

Another political leader who can play a key role in forming ‘Mahagathbandan’ in UP is Lalu Yadav. His studied silence is less intriguing as he has time and again clarified that his family relations with Mulayam Singh Yadav overrides everything else. What intrigues more is that he could have played an important role in convincing Nitish Kumar to join the brigade. For obvious reasons that has not happened.

However, Akhilesh Yadav’s ‘no’ to an alliance with Ajit Singh’s RLD is enough to unerstand to which way the efforts for forming a ‘grand alliance in UP’ is going. The Yadav scion is of the opinion that aligning with Jats may irk the Muslims and hence it was better leaving Ajit Singh and consolidate traditional M-Y vote bank. Since, Nitish Kumar has already made alliance with Ajit Singh’s RLD, there is little room for making a Bihar like ‘grand alliance’ even without Mayawati in fast approaching Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.