Generation change in UP politics
The Election Commission will take time to decide which faction of the Samajwadi Party deserves to go to the upcoming Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh with the cycle symbol. However, the ramshackle delegation which the party’s deposed President Mulayam Singh Yadav led the Election Commission to stake claim for the symbol was proof enough to show who commanded the support of the Samajwadi Party cadres. An isolated Shivpal Singh Yadav and the highly discredited political duo of Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh and his colleague Jaya Prada made up the delegation which Mulayam Singh led to the Nirvachan Sadan.
The reluctance of any prominent “Samajwadi” face to join the foursome clearly shows that the party satraps have decided to join the ranks either with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav or at least not annoy him by showing open support for the senior Yadav. Even a maverick leader like Azam Khan, the party’s Muslim face, has decided to play sober and peacemaker for now, indicating that he would use his position to buy peace with the aging patriarch for the rebellious son rather than counter latter’s moves.
The show of strength by the Chief Minister at a “populous” meeting on Sunday, where it was decided to replace the patriarch with the Young Turk, has for now sapped the Shivpal-Amar Singh camp of any energy for a direct fight. The postponement of the meeting on Saturday last by the ousted leadership and also the proposed larger gathering on January 5 clearly indicate demolarisation. But for a political animal like senior Yadav, it would be difficult to give up without a fight.
On the other hand, Akhilesh Yadav has done well to let the rapier find its own way. Having usurped the Samajwadi legacy, he is not really pushing hard at demolishing his father’s political personality. The senior Yadav is inflicting graver injuries on himself by being seen in company of self-proclaimed political wheeler-dealers like Amar Singh and his “bully image” brother Shivpal Yadav.
In wielding the blade to consolidate his position within the party, Akhilesh has also done well to use the opportunity to come clean of the evils which generally are considered synonymous with the Samajwadi Party. He has projected himself as a leader of his generation rather than his community; he has projected himself as somebody who would uphold the principles of clean politics and keep away the influence of law-breakers. This would definitely give momentum to his poll campaign, notwithstanding of the fact whether he is riding the cycle or not. He has reduced anti-incumbency to almost zero, at least that’s what is being perceived.
On the other hand, the ghost of demonetisation has come to hit both the other serious contenders – the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The aggressive advocacy of the demonetisation policy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his tours in Uttar Pradesh and equally aggressive counter of it by BSP clearly show that the two parties realise the catalyst this issue is going to be in the polls, which are speculated to be held in March. While BJP is battling the perception of the “messy implementation” of the demonetisation policy, BSP is finding it difficult to counter the allegations “stashed currency” notes in the leadership’s treasure chests.
According to well-placed sources in the BJP, the party has been jolted by the grassroots feedback, obtained through trusted survey agencies, which has indicated a downslide in the ratings. After the surgical strike in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the party indicated an upswing in its fortunes hoping to get upward of 148 seats in the 403-member of House.
However, the survey carried out by the party internally after a month of the demonetisation move showed that their number came down by more than 20 seats. What worried them, however, was that the seats which the party saw as change from winning to losing were going into the account of the Samajwadi Party. If Mayawati (Bahujan Samaj Party) and the BJP were to get 125 seats each and Samajwadi Party managed to cross 100, as the BJP sources indicate towards the current trends, the possibility of Akhilesh Yadav once again forming the government becomes much fairer than any time before as the smaller parties including the Congress are more likely to go with Akhilesh Yadav than anybody else.
With Akhilesh having almost decimated internal opposition in his party, he would definitely enter the poll with the desired alliance with the Congress something for which the latter’s leadership is also itching for. While the Chief Minister has repeatedly stated that an alliance with the Congress would enable the combination to win more than 300 seats in UP polls, the Shivpal-led faction had opposed the move and pushed for fielding “as many candidates of its own,” mostly tainted candidates.
If Akhliesh’s alliance with Congress gets going, the possibility of smaller somewhat significant players in their pockets of influence like Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) cannot be ruled. With such a development, BJP will have to rethink its strategy to take on a formidable combination. It might also have to change its current position of not declaring a Chief Ministerial face for the polls.
The developments of the past week clearly show that the last certainly has not be heard on the pre-poll strategy making in Indian’s most populous and politically significant state. How the political theatre rolls on would certainly make interesting fallout on the nation’s polity.
(Sidharth Mishra is President, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice and Consulting Editor, Millennium Post. The views expressed are strictly personal.)