The ongoing family feud in the Samajwadi Party will go down in the political history of the state as it manifests the ugly side of the family rule.
Dynasties are usually discouraged in democratic set ups as it stifles internal democracy. But here, it is flagrant within the ruling family.
Chief ministers are often removed from their posts but not publicly snubbed by the party high command. There was an instance when the Congress leadership removed a chief minister while he was abroad and flew back to hand over power, oblivious of the big ‘why’.
Even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) changed its chief ministers thrice - Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh - between 1998 and 2002. In fact, Kalyan Singh was removed on a Diwali night.
However, in all these changes, the party high command was not even distantly related to the chief minister.
In Uttar Pradesh, party president Mulayam Singh Yadav is the father of chief minister Akhilesh, whom he had handed over the chair despite stiff resistance from his brother Shivpal Singh Yadav, who had then wanted him to take over the chief ministership and make his son his deputy. In other words, adopt the Punjab formula.
Perhaps, Shivpal did not know then that Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had removed all his near and dear ones who dare challenge his son Sukhbir, whom he had decided to hand over the baton to.
Mulayam can neither turn the clock back even if he so wished nor him. Then why is he taking suicidal steps?
He knows in his heart that he and his son will have to be together, despite their differences, to win this crucial election. Others, whether outsiders or family members, don’t have the charisma to get the votes in the 2017 polls.
He understands that the family has to present a united picture even though they are fighting like characters in Hindi soap operas inside their heavily guarded home. He also knows the public is watching all their moves and that they should not be taken for granted. ‘Yeh public hai, sab jaanti hai’.
He has just done the reverse.
First, he publicly scolded his son throughout his five-year tenure. Akhilesh covered up his embarrassment with, “ which son does not get scolded by his father.”
Second, he allowed the impression to grow that he and some of his seniors were taking decisions. Opposition often derided Akhilesh as a weak CM. Apparently, Akhilesh started asserting himself in his third year and perhaps only in his pet development projects in which few in the party had an interest - Lucknow Metro, laptops etc.
Third, Mulayam displayed his anger against Akhilesh for ignoring him or his buddies. Apparently, he grew furious after Akhilesh as the CM removed his uncle as the minister. All that was reactionary and Mulayam, who in his earlier political life retaliated at the drop of the hat, should know that it is his blood that flows in Akhilesh. Even these issues could have been sorted amicably.
Some party functionaries claim that Mulayam was upset as Akhilesh tried to ‘build his own image, bigger than the party’. Perhaps, any other father would have been proud of his son’s growing popularity. He too might be feeling the same but is displaying the contrary.
Fourth, in the last two months, he has made all public appearances holding his brother’s hand, sending a curt message about whom he is siding with while playing the referee in an intense family battle. Even the tickets were announced in the absence of Akhilesh. Usually, the chief minister of the state remains present during the announcement.
“Tussle over ticket distribution happens in parties when CM hopefuls eyeing the chief minister’s chair try to get maximum for their acolytes. Why this tussle in SP? As such they are losing ground every day. Maybe ‘some’ do not want to win this election as they know Akhilesh may again become the chief minister or are trying to preempt that,” a political expert said.
Many are surprised over Mulayam’s insistence at not declaring the chief ministerial face when they have a sitting CM and that too a popular one.
His refusal for an alliance with Congress is rooted in his ideological background even as his son may be adopting a pragmatic approach, but his refusal to declare Akhilesh as the CM face raises doubts about the intentions. That alliance would have consolidated their position amongst Muslims.
Questions such as whether Mulayam would like to become the CM if his party is voted to power or would it be Shivpal who will take that chair are up in the air.
According to the reports pouring in from different parts of the state, people will vote more for Akhilesh as the CM than the party that ails with its image of encouraging anti-social elements. Mulayam, they feel, would prefer a national role.
The question that seems to be baffling all is that why can’t the contentious issues be solved in the drawing room instead of washing dirty linen in public. Mulayam might be thinking he is doing the best for the party but perhaps he is seeing everything from the prism of his son’s detractor’s eyes.
Once in an informal discussion Mulayam had said, “He (Akhilesh) doesn’t sit with me”, to which someone from his party had said, “You are his father as well as the political guru, pull him up if he doesn’t listen.”
Ironically, many say Mulayam is ageing. But those who know him claim that when it comes to winning political battles, he is as manipulative and shrewd as he was earlier.
Putting a family thriller on public display at the time of elections can only be an entertainment and not an acumen.
Apparently had it not been a family rule the chief minister would not have survived his full term. As said earlier chief ministers have been removed in the past but Mulayam does not have that option especially when he is sitting on a seesaw with his son on the other side. He knows Akhilesh has grown big, not only in age but popularity.
The BJP and BSP have a reason to cheer as a popular chief minister will be removed from their way and if not the chair.
Akhilesh has often told his supporters, “I will not break the party my father founded.”
One election will certainly be sacrificed.
Whenever pushed to the wall, Mulayam always emerged a winner. But he never had his family confronting him. Akhilesh has been pushed into a corner by his own father. Once a bureaucrat told him, “You can either be a good son or a CM (read politician)”. Akhilesh had said, “He would never break the party founded by his father.”
Whatever path he decides to walk now, only a miracle can help them win the polls.