Mulayam’s political acumen

Arun Srivastava

His detractors had ridiculed and despised him and also written him off from the electoral politics of Uttar Pradesh forever, but the patriarch of the Samajwadi Party showed to the political establishment of India that he is the master political strategist and none can match his skill. The political class and the establishment were wrong in his assessment of Mulayam from the beginning. It took seriously the family feud between Mulayam and Akhilesh and perceived it as the end of the dominance of Yadav clan in Uttar Pradesh. The naivety of the political class to comprehend the correct ground realities was also manifest in its inability to decode the crisis as a friendly fight (noorakusti).
There is a famous adage, achieving two goals through one action. But Mulayam could accomplish many goals through his one action. While he took the sheen off from the BJP, he also showed the JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar his place in the politics in national perspective,  reduced the regional political outfits to the status of non-entities and the most important task he could achieve was to completely erase the anti-incumbency factor against the SP government and project Akhilesh as the visionary and development oriented administrator.
The projection of Akhilesh has been the most significant gain. Thousands of public meetings could not have helped Mulayam and his son Akhilesh to achieve this feat. The manner in which he created the family crisis and then resolved it has no parallel in the Indian political scene. Even the political class had got worried of the future of Mulayam. Lalu appealed for amicable settlement. Some even held the view that Akhilesh has been too rude to his father. He ought to not have treated him in this matter. But the fact remained Akhilesh was speaking the lines of the brief written by Mulayam.
Mulayam saved the party from being wiped out from the state in the ensuing assembly election. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav not only earned for himself an image boost, pre-election momentum and a key alliance, he has managed to blunt BJP’s anti-incumbency attack. Even State BJP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak accepted that the drama-a-day fracas had deflected attention from issues on which the Opposition had been targeting Akhilesh: communal violence, crime, alleged corruption in the Samajwadi Party and his being "half a chief minister".
Mulayam preferred to don the cap of the angry father. If he really intended to harm Akhilesh and ensure that Samajwadi Party loses the election he would have forced the Election Commission to freeze the election symbol, the cycle, of the party. His action might have resembled to letting down his own faction leaders but the matter of fact is he has been working on his well crafted plan. With Akhilesh as the chief minister, Mulayam will continue to have power in his hand.
The involvement of Sonia Gandhi in seat sharing and then handing over the command of campaigning to Priyanka Gandhi is a clear message for the Congress leaders hankering for installing Rahul Gandhi as the party president replacing Sonia Gandhi; they ought to realize this difference between the two individuals. While Sonia helped the leaders struck the deal, ironically Rahul Gandhi spoke to Akhilesh Yadav to try and understand why the Samajwadi Party had been continuously changing its stand but did not discuss the seat shares. In all fairness, as the de facto chief Rahul should have taken the initiative to accomplish the task.
In national politics and especially in Uttar Pradesh, everybody knows that Mulayam seldom forgives his adversaries and detractors. He waits for the right time to attack. Before the family feud erupted, the chances of Nitish Kumar riding the bandwagon of SP was quite bright. But in the prevailing situation JD(U) of Nitish has no place in the alliance. Irked at the development, Janata Dal (United) expressed displeasure about not being part of the SP-led alliance there. JD(U) was contemplating to use the alliance for floating Nitish as a national leader. Though the JD(U) general secretary Tyagi claimed “in the last Bihar Assembly polls we had cancelled the tickets of as many as 40 of our sitting MLAs for them. We are the pioneers of forming secular alliances.”  But the fact remained that the JD(U) was not willing to give more than 5 seats to SP. Mulayam took it as an affront and came out of the grand alliance of Bihar. The JD(U) was so angry with SP that it accused Akhilesh and Mulayam of benefitting BJP.  At one stage in order to check Akhilesh and Samajwadi Party, the JD(U) was trying to bring other likeminded parties on one platform.
Finally wisdom prevailed and now the JD(U) has decided not to contest the assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh, neither would support any other political party there.“To protect the constituency for secular forces we’ve taken the decision not to contest assembly election in UP.” To be true enough, the general secretary KC Tyagi knows going to polls in UP would prove to be the Waterloo for the JD(U) leadership. Though Tyagi promised to strengthen secular forces, on his part Nitish Kumar will not visit UP for campaigning even if Akhilesh Yadav sends him the formal invitation. Interestingly only in May last year Nitish Kumar had addressed six meetings in these areas exploring opportunities for the party to contest the poll. The party does not have an impressive track record in Uttar Pradesh it had failed to win a single seat of the 219 it contested in the 403-seat assembly during the 2012 election. On the contrary, the Congress won 28 of the 355 seats it fought in 2012. The RLD and the Peace Party won nine and four seats out of the 46 and 208 seats they had contested, respectively. (IPA)

Saturday, 4 February, 2017