Samajwadi Party Charade: Match, Game And Set Akhilesh Yadav
NEW DELHI: The Samajwadi drama and media analysis on Dec. 30, 2016, evening, as usual, was confined more to the fate of the Samajwadi Party (SP), post-UP hustings in 2017, a colossal waste of costly airtime filled with mundane inanities. For neither was Mulayam Singh Yadav (MSY) greenhorn nor Akhilesh Yadav (AY), a defeated or aspirant Chief Minister. Let us first get a few facts clear.
First, MSY is barely coherent on TV and evidently not in good health to shoulder the responsibilities of CMship any longer. Second, MSY has a vast network of loyal followers, mostly unsavoury characters and hereditary chieftains, to whom he gave out tickets for Election 2017 and took the pressure off him, regardless of their winability. AY understandably wished to steer clear of such elements, as he did in 2012, hence his parallel list. It was quite likely that AY’s list was the final one, a major component of the charade that was played out between father and son.
Third, SP runs primarily on family loyalties, much like the SAD in Punjab. MSY can hardly be envied being caught between the kids of his two wives, his brother and his cousin for family, and SP stalwarts like Azam Khan and thousands like him more for whom politics is their family’s sole generational bread winner. Yet UP is his life blood and retaining it his life’s sole ambition now. What better candidate than his incumbent CM son?
Fourth, MSY was fully aware of his own physical and unpopularity ratings among his voters (UP had the maximum communal riots and goondaism during his tenures as UP’s CM, many of which I have personally lived through). In stark contrast, stood MSY’s Australian engineering degree holder son, who has matured in speech and action in the last five years of his CMship; most so, in his battle to rise above SP’s petty caste and familial loyalties and show himself to be a development guru.
AY is moderate in speech, quite articulate, knows his state inside out, has no major scams tainting him as yet, while his relatively young years and apparent modern attitude separate him from the disabling chaff that are the SP’s present stalwarts. MSY realised that AY was his worthy successor and needed to be set free or else force the current discredited stalwarts to kow-tow to AY. AY also has Ram Gopal Yadav as his able and trusted lieutenant, with political genes in the SP and ambitions of his own that would insure his loyalty to AY. Expulsion from the party achieved precisely that for both AY and his uncle-adviser. Even if a ‘National Convention’ is held, it is most likely AY will win the day as SP Chief while his detractors will bite the dust.
As of mid-morning of Dec 31, 2016, 190 SP MLAs have reportedly supported AY. More will follow for the lure of power is all-consuming. Evidently, MSY whose list of candidates and AY’s lists coincided to the extent of more than three-quarters rightly believed that this charade would put the discredited old guard to flight and drive the younger into AY’s fold – corpus for a new SP. The odds of the old SP under AY and a new SP, also under AY, are therefore evenly poised.
How does AY’s expulsion from the SP help him? For one, he comes out in public as a martyr, gone down fighting to regressive SP politics that traditionally treated UP as a series of family fiefdoms, not far different from the pre-unified United Provinces. At once, it portrays AY as the most acceptable CM face, particularly when the BJP alternative remains unknown, Behenji has a wholly murky past track record while the Brahmin Congress nominee is no longer in the pink of health and years.
Second, AY is now free to form his own party (there is sufficient time yet) and give out tickets to his rank and file or else ‘force’ MSY to hand over the SP’s reins to him by sheer number of MLAs flocking to his fold. Most of AY’s candidates are young and presumably, have equally muscular winning attributes that MSY’s ticketed candidates to survive and prosper in the hurly-burly of UP politics.
Nearly all would be hard-core SP loyalists but with a critical difference. They would owe loyalty to their own GenX CM, AY, (the same as the bulk of BJP’s current MPs) rather than to the throwbacks of the past. The antics of Azam Khan and his like have certainly not endeared them to the average voter and their ability to win are entirely suspect; split votes are unlikely to make any appreciable difference in the final votes tally for cops deployed to search for a minister’s missing buffaloes are vote-repellents.
Third, AY’s achievements, even if they are a quarter of what he promised in 2012, would be many times more tangible than those of their main opposition, the BJP and way ahead of the Congress’s and BSP’s memorials. Law and order is not that bad, even by openly biased media reports, many mega infrastructure projects have come to fruition, the Lucknow metro rail is on track and life seems to have improved for the vast majority of UP’s rural population till Project Remonetisation reportedly wreaked havoc.
Fourth, the hardships of Project Remonetisation that is only too evident among indigent voters would account for four-fifths of the total vote. This vote bank has also been vastly augmented by the return of lakhs of unemployed, but enlisted, voters from migrant labour across India owing to the economic downturn following Project Remonetisation. This would add to the existing body of votes that could go AY’s way as people look for succour from a perceived uncaring government at the centre and exploitation by the likes of SP, BSP, Congress, etc. In effect, this Project may well be AY’s victory tiger, much to the chagrin of the tiger-makers.
In fine, MSY may indeed have played the greatest masterstroke of his life by virtually dismantling the SP, putting hundreds of self-serving loyalists out of the race for Election 2017 in UP, none in any position to challenge his son, AY. The other options, viz. AY as the new SP chief or heading a new party terrify the old guard into calling it a day for themselves. The charade has also been enacted just in time as the current Assembly’s term expires on May 27, 2017 and ECI would announce the dates just about 45-60 days before that, i.e. by about Mar. 15-28, 2017.
It is therefore good time to recommend early dissolution of the UP Assembly and call for fresh elections, along with Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand whose terms expire on Mar 18-26, 2017, even if AY remains the majority leader of a broken SP. Nor would opposition parties be able to cobble together a coalition for a residual term of barely four months.
This would, in turn, severely constrain Governor Ram Naik’s constitutional options for any move to unseat AY would be perceived as being on behalf of the Centre and be unpalatable to a population already reeling from the endless misery-filled after effects of remonetisation. Early dissolution would catch other parties, particularly the BJP, off-guard and ill-prepared to face the electorate without even the barest minimum cash having reached rural UP and no compensation for lost earnings offered either.
Last, but not the least, MSY also realized that his CM son had far greater appeal in his state than imported and meaningless demagoguery and arbitrarily imposed candidates of other parties in the fray. Plato’s “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers” therefore applies in the fullest measure to MSY’s signature theatrical composition, even if he never heard of Plato.
New or old SP, my impression is that AY will again sprint to the Lucknow Sachivalaya as UP’s second-time CM, at least with a simple majority on his own, if not more. If he does indeed make it, he could also be a major contender for the Prime Ministerial Throne on Raisina Hill in 2019, a far more popular choice that the current political menagerie has on offer.
(The writer is a senior public policy analyst and commentator)