Twists and Turns
On the eve of three by-polls in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the state is in the grip of high drama. The twists and turns that unfold each day leading up to the date of polling on December 5 must make soap opera queen Ekta Kapoor proud. There is so much of band, baja and baraat that soap opera producers no longer need to look beyond UP, to keep churning out theatricals for the rest of their life.
The eventual embrace of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav of once estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav is an 'aww' moment for supporters. However, a group of dissidents who had once worked with Shivpal have left the senior SP leader to join the ruling party. They are annoyed that Shivpal chose ideology and family, above real politics of the day.
Those who have abandoned the socialist politics of Shivpal to join the ruling party, accuse their former leader of caring only for his family, and not for the political interest of party workers.
For the same reason the security of Shivpal has been downgraded from 'Z' to 'Y' by the ruling party who compared the politics of Shivpal to a football and has referred to him as a pendulum who is sometimes here, and sometimes there.
Shivpal dismissed the name calling with a shrug saying that this was expected of the ruling party. Akhilesh promptly supported uncle Shivpal, tweeting that the reduction of the cover of a senior politician like Shivpal is objectionable. He added that a pendulum is a symbol of movement and of change.
At a crowded public meeting, Shivpal asked voters to make his daughter-in-law, Akhilesh's wife Dimple Yadav, win with a thumping majority in the by-elections being held in Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency. This, he said, will be the greatest tribute to NetaJi, the late Mulayam Singh.
"Make my bahu, my daughter-in-law, victorious by a much bigger margin than mine," Shivpal asked voters. He promised the people that Dimple would make sure that Mulayam Singh's dream of bringing prosperity and security to the region is realised.
The battle of SP supporters is now directly with the ruling party, Shivpal announced from a loud speaker for all to hear. Shivpal also wants his nephew and former chief minister Akhilesh to be called 'Chote Netaji' (young leader).
Mainpuri constituency was left vacant after the death of SP founder and strongman Mulayam Singh Yadav in October. Mulayam Singh was a respected politician who was lovingly called Neta Ji. With the death of Mulayam Singh, the SP is working overtime to win the constituency back for itself.
Mainpuri has been the bastion of SP politics for decades. However the ruling party is doing everything under the sun to make its own presence felt in the region by winning Mainpuri.
Not My Disciple
The ruling party contestant against SP's Dimple Yadav is Raghuraj Singh Shakya. Shakya was once a member of the SP and groomed into politics by Shivpal. The ruling party was hoping that together with Shivpal and Shakya, it would divert some of the SP votes to itself.
With Shivpal having finally decided to kiss and makeup with nephew Akhilesh, and refusing to be part of the divide and rule politics of the day, has got the ruling party sulking and to name calling. Shivpal has been compared to a football and pendulum by senior leaders of the ruling party.
But Shivpal is unfazed. He has openly disowned the ruling party contestant in Mainpuri saying that some people call themselves his disciple but they are not.
Shivpal has made it clear that the ruling party's nominee in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha by-polls is no disciple of his, that today he is rock-solid behind Dimple, making sure that the SP candidate wins the by-election with a thumping majority.
"No disciple cheats the way he did. Had he been a disciple he would not have left him quietly but first informed his guru, his teacher," Shivpal said in an obvious reference to Shakya.
Without naming him, Shivpal said "someone amongst you wants your vote and he says that he is my disciple. He is not my disciple but just an over ambitious opportunist".
A few days ago Shakya had told the media that Shivpal is his political guru and he will surely receive his blessing for a win in the upcoming by-polls.
As if so much drama unfolding in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency was not enough. There is more happening in Khatauli, the sugar belt in district Muzaffarnagar, western UP.
The area is a traditional stronghold of former Prime Minister and kisan leader Chaudhary Charan Singh. Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief and grandson of Chaudhary Charan Singh, Jayant Chaudhary has been canvassing door to door in Khatauli for his candidate Madan Gopal.
Apart from being a Jat community stronghold, Khatauli has a large Gurjar and Muslim population. Jayant is winning hearts by connecting with voters on the ground. He has orchestrated an election campaign that is attempting to unite members of all three communities.
Jayant is trying to counter the fear instilled in citizens against each other. Jayant's appeal to voters is to stand up to divisions being created between citizens, between brothers and to stop divisive politics from ruining and breaking up the country.
With Dalit leader and Bhim Party chief Chandrashekhar Azad by his side, Jayant is also trying to woo Dalit voters in the absence of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)'s Mayawati from the fray.
Jayant belongs to the community of Jats that historically has not been on the best of terms with Dalits. The Khatauli constituency has over 3.12 lakh voters, including one lakh Muslims, 30,000 Jats and 25,000 Gurjar voters. The number of Dalit voters is about 50,000.
The RLD contestant, already supported by the SP, also hopes to win the votes of the 'upper caste' Tyagi community.
The Tyagis in the area have been annoyed with the ruling party ever since Srikant Tyagi and his family members were harassed in a NOIDA residential society incident. Members of the Tyagi community held a meeting where it was decided that all Tyagi voters would vote against the ruling party candidate on December 5 in Khatauli.
The Award Goes To…
However, the award for the best performance during the current election campaign goes to senior SP leader Azam Khan, 74 in Rampur. Khan's name has been struck off the voter's list.
He has been jailed on multiple charges of corruption and acts of land grabbing. Khan is out on bail and campaigning for the SP candidate in the Rampur by-polls with his heart and soul.
The ailing politician burst into tears at a public meeting saying that suicide is not permitted by his religion. But, he said, with so many court cases against him sometimes he "feels like committing suicide". Ruling party leaders were quick to dismiss Khan's cries as crocodile tears.