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Millennium Post

The importance of being Mulayam

Very little is known about Mulayam Singh and whatever little is known, opinion is sharply divided, the pendulum swinging from one extreme position to another. The intelligentsia of the media have often portrayed him as a casteist and regional leader who is an opportunist and patron of goondas and history-sheeters and having no scruples, while Shekhar Gupta who has psychoanalysed his mental make up, has indeed eulogised him on the basis of his wide-range of interactions with him. Somewhere we have to strike a delicate balance between these two extreme positions.

Socialised in the rural background in the backward district of Uttar Pradesh (UP), he excelled in the game of wrestling and was accommodated in expanding educational system in the intermediate college. It is fascinating to note that most of the school and college teachers found their-entry into politics and its not be exaggeration to say that over 60 per cent in the house of 425 members of UP state were from the teaching profession.

Professor Nurul Hassan was teaching in Aligarh Muslim University when he was inducted as the Minister of Education and Culture in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet.

D P Chattopadhya was teaching in Jadavpur University when he was made the Minister of Health.  Some of the distinguished academicians who were inducted into politics were Professor V K V R Rao, K L Shrimali, S Radhakrishnan and Zakir Hussain.

This may appear to be a little digression but I thought it would be appropriate to highlight that Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi wanted to use their talent for the top position of the country irrespective of their political affiliations.

While writing about the portrait of Mulayam Singh, I would like to say that he is a burly figure with narrow wrinkled forehead, small  in stature carrying a constant expression seriousness. He looks like a villager without any sophistication, commands awe and fear. He is shrewd and not very open as a person. He does not exude the feeling of warmth and lacks humour and wit.

Unlike him, Lalu Prasad Yadav, is wily and often directs his satirical remarks against his opponents.  His satirical remarks on the intelligence quotient of the President of BJP are highly provocative.  Mulayam is the enemy of sentimentalism; his very dictatorial or authoritarian taste clings to all that is sure, tested and verified. He wants to be on top but at the same time, he knows his limitations. A narrow but deep sensibility lies beneath his rough exterior.

His scale of values is not quite the same as that of other regional leaders like Nitish Kumar, Chandrababu Naidu, Mamata Bannerjee, Jaya Lalitha and Lalu Prasad Yadav.   In fact, I was triggered by Shekhar Gupta’s article, ‘The Mulayam Touch’, in which he did make an attempt to probe in-depth some of the untapped potentials of Mulayan Singh in the era of coalition politics. But he merely glorified him without realising the fact that his party suffers from serious constraints. 

It is a tribute to Akhilesh Yadav, his son, who manifests a youthful charm imbued with idealism, pragmatism, dynamism, balancing modernity with traditional values. Sharing the perception of his father, Akhilesh Yadav’s secular credentials are unquestionable. He has been working very hard for the empowerment of the Muslim community.

Granted that Mulayam shares many qualities with the leftists but he is not a rigid Marxist and indeed is Bhakta of Hanuman and perhaps recites Hanuman Chalisa and Sankat Mochan.  He is a vibrant politician and is passionately committed to the caste politics, community and religion.  He confessed that if we take out caste, religion and clan (jati, dharma and biradari) from the politics, it would become too cruel and callous and lose the soft elements. Mulayam inherited his political world-view from Rammanhor Lohia, Acharya Narendra Dev but he had absorbed many qualities of Chaudhary Charan Singh and followed his politics of the castes combination.

But at the same time, he had been the loyal disciple of Comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet Singh.  While he held his ideology close to his heart, he was one of the most inclusive politicians.  Harkishan Singh Surjeet Singh  had friends on all sides of political spectrum and he never treated anybody as persona non-gratia and he knew the art of solving political problems.  It was only his genius that could put together United Front Government in 1996.

What is significant about Mulayam Singh is his instinct for politics and uncanny wisdom to strike at the right moment.  His motives are apparent flowing from the expediency and sheer opportunism.  No wonder, he is a product of a Mandal Missile and even he is viewed by the media as a Muscle Man and patron of goondas.

The configuration of regionalist, casteist and communalist forces has fractured our polity and brought the country to crucial crossroads.  These leaders are responsible for the criminalisation of politics.  History is not a bunk but has a meaning.  When we look backwards and forwards in time and space and do little introspection into the roadmap of politics of 1967, we experience the beginning of the configuration of regional, castiest and communal forces and the politics of sheer opportunism, expediency factionalism and often splits in parties to cobble majority on the floor of the Legislative Assemblies.

Moreover, it could be reasonably said that Mulayam Singh and former president A P J Abdul Kalam share with each other many qualities, such as, both of them are very ambitious, eccentrics, shrewd politicians and function from the different levels: One through social mobilisation and other through the intellectual mobilisation.

The goal is the same but the means are different.  Both of them are real jugaadu (the word Jugaard has been accepted in the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary). Objectively viewed, Mulayam Singh has been a lively and controversial figure in our confused and coalition politic: the political system revolving around the concept of survivability. 
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