Buzz in UP: Can Akhilesh Yadav remove his father’s mistrust of Congress?
analysis Updated: Sep 09, 2016 17:33 IST
Soon after the 2014 general election, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav candidly told journalists that his party helped Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi win their seats as he did not want the BJP to win in the state.
While Sonia’s win from Rae Bareli was certain, Rahul had faced a massive challenge from Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Smriti Irani in his family constituency of Amethi.
But less than a year later, Mulayam walked out of the grand alliance that he had built in Bihar to defeat the communal forces, only because Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar had quietly met the Gandhis in Delhi.
The political chapter on the uncanny relationship between Mulayam and the Gandhis has several pages of mistrust, beginning from the days of late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1990.
A recap: Mulayam was heading a minority government, supported by the Congress. While talks were on for an electoral alliance between the two parties, Mulayam woke up the then governor Satya Narayan Reddy at 4.30am to recommend the dissolution of the house. By the time Congress leader ND Tiwari reached Raj Bhawan, the assembly had been dissolved. Mulayam continued as a caretaker chief minister.
Their love and hate relationship has continued till date. While Mulayam talks about betrayal and misuse of the CBI against him and his family by the UPA government in a disproportionate assets case, Congress leaders accuse him of stalling Sonia’s ascent to power in 1999.
Now the big question: Can the Gandhi and the Yadav scions remove the deep mistrust their seniors have and build an electoral partnership?
“Politics is all about imponderables, with no permanent friends and foes. Rahul and Akhilesh may take their friendship beyond personal to politics,” says a political expert.
Apparently, both the scions have moved away from the animosity of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when Rahul had aggressively campaigned in Ferozabad Lok Sabha constituency to defeat Akhilesh’s wife Dimple Yadav. She later created history by winning the Kannauj seat, vacated by her husband after becoming the chief minister in 2012, unopposed.
And in 2014, Congress was the first to announce its decision of not contesting from Kannauj where Dimple was seeking a re-election. In response, SP did not field any candidate against the Gandhis though Akhilesh had taken his revenge by defeating the Congress in their bastions in the 2012 assembly polls.
Soon after Akhilesh said on Thursday that he and Rahul could be friends, speculations have been rife over a possible Congress-SP tie up for the upcoming UP assembly elections. Many in his party are of the view that an alliance with like-minded parties, including the Congress, will obviate a split in anti-BJP votes and thus checkmate the takeover of UP by the saffron power.
But the party’s consistent official line has been, ‘SP may have electoral tie-ups with smaller parties, including RLD of Choudhary Ajit Singh.’
SP veteran Beni Prasad Verma, who returned to the party fold after a brief stay in the Congress, finds it hard to fathom Mulayam’s mistrust of Congress. “They can break bread together but would not forge an electoral alliance,” he said recently.
Apparently, the scions may be looking at post- poll opportunities. While the SP may need the Congress’ support to form the government in 2017, two years later it could be the latter’s turn to knock at Yadav’s doors.
However, last year at the Hindustan Times Summit in Delhi, Akhilesh took a jibe at Rahul sitting in the audience.
“He is an old friend but I will say yes to alliance right now if agreed on Netaji (Mulayam) as PM and Rahul Gandhi his deputy,” he had said.
The future of their friendship, perhaps, depends on the 2017 poll results.