The damage is done; the die cast. The Samajwadi Party’s social base is bound to split even if its feuding stakeholders eventually put up a façade of unity.
The SP patriarch, Mulayam Singh Yadav has left his son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav little room for manoeuvre. He either stays and plays second fiddle to a host of detractors — or leaves the party on a long arduous road to be recognised on his own strength. His choices are unenviable either way.
Mulayam may not have politically weakened, as he claimed on Monday while repeatedly upbraiding Akhilesh at a party meeting. But in the run up to elections early next year, he has little time left to put the party back on to the pedestal from which it has tumbled in popular perception.
The SP’s Muslim-Yadav (MY) social base today runs the risk of losing the Muslim component that’s largely tactical in its voting pattern. It sees itself as a force multiplier for any party or formation with a strong non-Muslim base-vote to block the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In the event of what’s feared, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), with its committed Dalit (Jatav) vote-bank may seem more attractive to Muslims who, like the scheduled castes, have been at the receiving end of the RSS-BJP promoted cow-vigilantes.
The yadavi yudh on display is Gandhari’s mythological curse to Krishna coming true — that his Yadav clansmen will never be at peace with each other. Leaving aside the Mahabharata episode, even in hard political terms the fratricidal conflict’s ripple effect is unlikely to be restricted to the top SP echelons. For in set-ups with multiple power hubs, loyalties are more to individuals than to the party.
No tightly-held family enterprise can possibly survive such deep fissures in the holding fraternal alliance.
What exactly has gone wrong in the SP? Is it a clash of values, of generations or competitive ambitions? Difficult questions these that might find answers with the passage of time.
For the present, Mulayam wants Akhilesh to “hug and make up” with uncle Shivpal who, he said, was his “inseparable” brother. In the same breath, the SP chieftain called the CM’s other bête noire, Amar Singh, a friend in need who “saved me from being jailed” and Mukhtar Ansari, the UP don with whom Shivpal has sewn up an alliance, a politician from a respectable family to which vice-president Hamid Ansari belongs.
So, if Akhilesh does overcome his pride and stays put as CM, he’d at best be an appendage to the ruling cabal led by Shivpal and patronised by Mulayam. What say he will have in ticket distribution amid such uneven balance of power, is anybody’s guess.
Contrast that with the 2012 poll campaign that the youthful leader led from the front, dislodging the BSP’s Mayawati and reducing the BJP and the Congress to a rump in the 404-strong House. In some ways, his predicament is similar to that of Omar Abdullah, who, as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had his adversarial moments with his father, Farooq Abdullah. The National Conference too had ambitious uncles resisting the generational shift.
Mercifully, matters didn’t come to a head in Kashmir the way they have in UP — except that Omar lost power in 2014.
But there’s another interesting parallel. Both Omar and Akhilesh have good equations with the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, who too is pitted against the old order in the party. A story of syndicates this, handed down from the 1960s when Indira Gandhi, as a relative greenhorn, had to fight old Congressmen.