The way things unfolded among the most influential political family of Uttar Pradesh could be called painful but the age-old adage—no gain without pain— also holds some water. As the patriarch of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Mulayam Singh Yadav has now declared that “all is well” both in the family and party, the warring sides have been asked to make peace and focus on their assignments. But how long will it last?
Amid all this speculation, Akhilesh Yadav is going to kick off his poll campaign for the upcoming UP Assembly Elections in 2017 with one of the best global political campaign managers—Steve Jarding, faculty in Harward Kennedy School and the author of “The Making of a Politician”. Jarding is also the architect of the course titled, “The Making of a Politician”. It is one of the most sought after courses among aspiring, mid-level, and even experienced politicians. The syllabus focuses on improvement among students and evaluates them at each level.
With his political moves, calm nature, and clear expressions, the UP Chief Minister turned the apparent family crisis into an opportunity and not only emerged as an undisputed claimant of the political legacy of Mulayam Singh Yadav but also created his political aura. In the two rounds of recent political battles with uncle Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh emerged even stronger. In September he took away Shivpal’s portfolios and sacked his supporter minister but was forced to re-induct them. But this time he sacked four ministers including Shivpal Yadav and walked away without any particular promise on induction.
The political legacy of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and Samajwadi Party (SP) needs to be analysed to understand the gains made by Akhilesh during this family feud. No doubt the party has the support of the masses in the state, but opponents have always characterised SP for patronising criminals, corrupts, goons, mafias, and Muslim appeasement. Previous SP governments led by his father were always slammed for poor law and order, corruption, nepotism in government jobs, and deteriorating education and communal appeasement. After defeat in the 2014 general elections, Akhilesh Yadav focused on painting his government with shades of development work, but those allegations always overshadowed his efforts. If we see his recent interviews before the family feud on various channels, he is seen trying to project the development work of his government but is caught up on questions regarding law and order and corruption.
Here, Akhilesh Yadav needed a political moulting. In this apparent family feud, Akhilesh Yadav and his campaign managers saw an opportunity to shed off the adverse image of his party and government on the ageing generation. Earlier, by opposing the induction of Mukhtar Ansari tooth and nail, Akhilesh Yadav already communicated to the masses that he is against goonda elements in the party. Adamant Shivpal Yadav proudly took this allegation upon himself by ensuring his induction in the party. Furthermore, unlike his father and Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh never used “bad language” against his political rivals including BSP chief Mayawati but called her Bua (Aunt).
In the entire political mudslinging, the uncles and their lobbies labelled all possible allegations on one another but not on Akhilesh. However, Akhilesh blamed his uncle, Shivpal Yadav and his close ministers/ MLAs/MLCs for corruption, but the top family was untouched like Congress leaders always keep the Gandhis away from their feuds. The message that only “uncles” and their “chamchas” are responsible for corruption and all the evil works was well communicated to the masses through the extensive coverage of the family feud by the media. This may not be the reality, but the free media coverage on desired lines was conducive to the political moulting of Akhilesh.
Akhilesh is now left with his desired political aura radiating “development and inclusive politics” which his campaign strategists are trying to sell hard among youth across caste and communities. This image is also attractive for the business sector, middle class, opinion makers, and elite class. SP has been craving for such a politician since long.
Mulayam Singh’s decision to side with Shivpal and retain the old team in the party as the rival group will help SP in both short and long term. The old team will do its best to retain the party’s traditional vote bank, through caste engineering and religious alignments. Shivpal Yadav has already started to increase the voting base of the party by trying to forge alliances with other political parties.
This political arrangement of giving the post of Chief Minister to one representing a group and State Presidentship to a rival is not new in Indian politics. A recent example was Sheila Dikshit as Chief Minister and her arch rivals Rambabu Sharma and J P Agarwal as Delhi Congress presidents. In Delhi, during Sheila Dikshit’s regime, her’s was the final word in matters of the state government. Successive Delhi Pradesh Congress presidents were given a free hand to deal with civic bodies (MCDs) while Central leadership primarily handled MPs. Here in Delhi, the rival groups were united under the Gandhis. Similarly, in UP rival factions are united under Mulayam Singh Yadav.
In the first video released for his political campaign, Akhilesh has been projected as the face of “development and inclusive growth”. In the words of Steve Jarding, “family knows that if the CM loses, everybody loses”, so both the fractions are most likely to work on their assignments to ensure victory in UP Assembly polls – 2017. If not reality, at least it will be the strategy.
(Siddheshwar Shukla is Deputy Chief Reporter, Millennium Post. The views expressed are strictly personal.)