Feuds within Samajwadi Party: Real or contrived?
Dr Satish Misra
Roughly five months away from assembly elections, Uttar Pradesh is witnessing interesting developments some enacted and others happening on their own because of host of contradictions and historical pulls in the political system.
The ruling Samajwadi Party in the country’s biggest state of Uttar Pradesh seems to be caught in a crisis with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav trying to assert to dismiss a largely held public perception that he is just a puppet ruler with strings being controlled by his father and party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and few of his (Akhilesh’s) uncles.
In a show of apparent defiance, the Chief Minister dropped two of his ministers namely Gayatri Prajapati and Raj Kishore Singh close to his father from his council of ministers on charges of corruption. Then he removed three month old Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal, who owes loyalty to Akhilesh’s uncle Shivpal Yadav,and appointed his favourite Rahul Prasad Bhatnagar in his (Singhal’s ) place. Finally he divested important portfolios from Shivpal,the younger brother of the party supremo.
Earlier in a clear signal to one and all, Mulayam had appointed Shivpal head of the party in UP in place of Akhilesh.
Akhilesh had earlier blocked the merger of the Quami Ekta Dal (QED) into the SP on grounds that a merger would bring bad name to the party. The QED’s main patron and financer is noted criminal Mukhtar Ansari. The merger was being engineered by Shivpal and had the blessings of Mulayam.
Under attack from the opposition on the issue of the bad law and order situation in the state, the Chief Minister had recently asked the state police bosses to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy towards the crime in the state.
Indications of a tussle within the party and the government were coming for last couple of months as it began to dawn upon that the SP was losing political ground rapidly and it may not be able to retain power after the next year’s elections.
For last four and half years, public perception had been developing that while the young and energetic chief minister was keen to effectively govern, his uncles and other members of the Yadav clan were not allowing him to perform. A joke which became popular in the state was there are four and half chief ministers in the state, namely Mulayam, Shivpal, Ramgopal, Azam Khan and half Akhilesh himself.
While four were pulling strings in the state government effecting transfers and postings and collecting funds in the last four and half years, Akhilesh was happily crafting his image of an administrator who left to him would develop the state and remove corruption.
Politically shrewd Mulayam gave credence to this theory in the knowledge that Akhilesh’s positive image would bring dividends to the party in assembly elections, The SP chief also knew that image alone cannot win elections.
That is why, the SP chief, who has been three times UP chief minister and a Union Minister, gave a long rope and allowed the public perception to grow. Now that the elections are round the corner, final act of the drama is being enacted.
National and regional media, both English as well as vernacular, presented a picture that feud and simmering differences within the Yadav clan, have burst into open and now it was becoming increasingly difficult even for Mulayam to control.
But in reality, drama was proceeding according to the script as both Akhilesh as well as Shivpal accepted that ‘Netaji’, as Mulayam is known by his party men, was the final arbiter and his writ continues to run.
Mulayam made Shivpal the UP chief of the SP in full knowledge that his younger brother knows party workers personally and was the important link between him and the Akhilesh government. Shivpal, not Akhilesh, would play a key role in ticket distribution as his younger brother knew the political ground realties including the caste combinations in every assembly constituency. Task of ticket distribution cannot be handed over to Akhilesh who is yet relatively naive in his belief that development alone could fetch him enough votes to win.
Time has yet not arrived to wish away caste and communal realities and electorate of the state predominantly continues to vote on caste and community lines, is the view of the seasoned politician Mulayam who has been in active politics since late fifties of the last century.
That is precisely why Akhilesh was made to watch as how his clan members used the state machinery to benefit themselves, their family members and Yadavs at large. Majority important positions in the state were given to Yadavs.
Akhilesh did not either protest or put his foot down as he is being projected to be doing now. Who could believe that for over four years of his government, the young UP CM had no clue to what was going on in his own government?
Millions and millions were being made in transfer and postings which has been perfected by the SP and BSP governments in the past two decades and the CM was oblivious of it. There was not even a murmur of a protest from Akhilesh who has apparently woken up when election drew nearer.
Those who know politics of the state well, take a hearty laugh when Akhilesh sulks, shows anger or even curtly comments that while he consults his father mostly but some time also takes independent decisions.
Mulayam wants to ensure the return to power of his party that is why allowing the drama to go under his supervision and direction.
Whether Mulayam would succeed in bringing his son back to the chief ministerial chair would be decided by the people of the state who have shown doors to some of the best and shrewdest political masters.
People have choices and they may opt for the BSP, the BJP or even the Congress showing contempt for the enacted drama.
The author is a Senior Fellow with Observer Research Foundation