Lucknow Gup- Meeting of Minds?
The hour-long meeting between Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar last Tuesday has raised hopes of a powerful alliance of opposition parties in the future.
However, not much is known about the conversation that took place between the two politicians.
Talking to the media after the pow wow, a visibly elated Nitesh Kumar said that without doubt any alliance of Opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh (UP) will be led by Akhilesh! The meeting took place in a hospital in Gurugram where SP founder and Akhilesh's father Mulayam Singh is undergoing treatment for age-related ailments.
The sudden announcement made in favour of Akhilesh in full media glare seemed a little difficult even for the former chief minister of UP to digest. Akhilesh looked surprised before the countless cameras that had zoomed in on the two politicians.
The first thought that came to the mind of all those who saw a beaming Nitish Kumar happily walk beside Akhilesh, and heard him say what he did, was of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati. How would Mayawati react to the announcement made by Nitish Kumar?
After all, the SP and the BSP are bitter political rivals in UP. There is little reason for Mayawati to play second fiddle to a much younger Akhilesh in one of the most politically important provinces in the country. Uttar Pradesh sends the largest number of Parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha.
In a future visit to Lucknow, Nitish Kumar is expected to meet with Mayawati as well, and other politicians of smaller parties in UP. More will be known then of Mayawati's plans for the future. Will she contest the 2024 general elections alone, or join the alliance of Opposition parties or will she choose to continue to help the ruling party to win yet another election?
The Congress Party
Once upon a time the Congress Party had held political sway over all of UP. Over time contenders like the BJP, SP and the BSP emerged to steal power away from the Congress.
The whirlwind tour of Nitish Kumar who has been meeting different Opposition party leaders ever since he broke away from a political alliance with the ruling party in Bihar, included a meeting with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Nitish Kumar met Gandhi in Delhi, a day before he met the SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Nitish Kumar has been trying to convince his political colleagues that it is possible to oust the ruling party from power by a united Opposition. He is on good terms with many politicians of different political parties and has started to meet them one by one in the hope of forging a united challenge to the ruling party in the parliamentary elections to be held in 2024.
When Nitish Kumar met Rahul Gandhi in Delhi they talked about the current political situation, without quarrel over who will be the Prime Ministerial face of the Opposition parties.
Nitish Kumar believes that this is the right time to together save the Constitution from authoritarian, communal and corporate forces that are playing havoc in the country. While he is upbeat over unity amongst the many Opposition party leaders against the ruling party, some citizens are sceptical.
"How will the gigantic egos of the likes of Mamta Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar himself along with numerous other seasoned politicians reconcile to the idea of being led by another?" wondered a voter.
An analyst compared the present political landscape of the country to one that is threatened by a flood like situation. And attempts to unite a diverse group of Opposition parties to a tall tree. To escape the tragedy different creatures are trying to stay afloat by taking refuge on the same tree but once the waters recede, it will be interesting to see how long the creatures remain civil towards each other?
The Jat Factor
The Rashtriya Lok Dal Party (RLD) chief Jayant Chaudhary is yet another name to reckon with in the politics of UP. A popular leader amongst the Jat community, Jayant enjoys a sizable following in western UP.
The ruling party is surely aware of the political importance of Jayant and therefore has recently appointed Bhupendra Chaudhary, a Jat, as the chief of its unit in UP.
This is the ruling party's attempt to reach out to the Jat community that had led a year-long farmer's protest against farm laws. A strong Jat leader in western UP is supposed to compliment the popularity the chief minister Yogi Adityanath enjoys in eastern UP today.
Who is Avinash Awasthi?
Rumours of the many differences between those in power in Delhi and in Lucknow continue to surface. Delhi is forced at the moment to accept the popularity and the election winning capability of the chief minister of UP. Yet it is also the habit of Delhi to make sure that the state's Chief Minister does not act too independent.
Take the case of Avinash Awasthi, a retired bureaucrat who is close to the chief minister. The chief minister wanted to keep Awasthi in the government after he retired but Delhi did not allow that to happen.
This is because Delhi acknowledges the charisma of the Chief Minister but also likes to let him know that he should never forget who his boss is!
Lucknow's Best Samaritan
It is citizens like Muhammad Haider and wife Sanobar who make Lucknow such a special city. Haider is a leading lawyer however his claim to fame is the humanitarian help that he readily extends to the poorest of the poor.
Along with Sanobar, the couple is always there to help people with legal advice. They readily provide solace to the needy and to the suffering who might seek their help. They extend monetary help when it is necessary.
Sanobar is a historian, and Haider is an active heritage lover. They keep an eye on the shared past of citizens by making sure that the city's culture and heritage is preserved.
Citizens like Sanobar and Haider are perhaps responsible for keeping alive the reputation of Lucknow as a city of tameez (proper manners) and tehzeeb (sophisticated behaviour) in such short supply these days.