Minutes after chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s ‘Vikas se Vijay ki Ore’ yatra passed them on the Lucknow-Kanpur highway, a group of people began an animated discussion on the state’s politics at the busy Yadav market here.
All were Yadavs, young and old.
Sixty-year-old Sahaj Ram Yadav summed up their conclusions. “The upcoming 2017 elections will be a direct contest between the Samajwadi Party and the Bhartiya Janata Party though no party may emerge a clear winner,” he says.
A majority of them were admirers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well.
“Our vote is for Akhilesh in UP and Narendra Modi for Delhi,” he says while lauding the work done by both CM and PM.
This should come as a warning for the divided first family of the state as voters belonging to their traditional vote banks do consider the BJP as a viable option for the 2019 general elections.
According to political expert AK Verma, there was erosion in Mulayam’s OBC vote bank ahead of the 2014 general elections also. About 27% Yadavs had shifted to the BJP.
However, Raju, a young Muslim boy, says that for his community, the first option is Mulayam, followed by Mayawati. The Congress is largely dismissed as redundant in state politics.
About 20 kms away in Mohan assembly constituency - won twice by the BSP - Feroze Khan, who runs a welding shop is certain that the ongoing feud within the family has weakened the party. Muslims have limited options, he said and despite their liking for ‘Netaji’ Mulayam, many feel forced to turn to the BSP.
“However if the SP divides into two , then the Muslim youth will go with Akhilesh,” Feroze says.
The family feud has disturbed both the main vote banks of the Samajwadi Party. While some like Ramesh Yadav of Ambarpur village hopes the ongoing strife will be settled in few days’ time, others like Sahaj Ram rues, “SP would have won the election with a clear majority had outsiders not created the rift between Shivpal and Akhilesh.”
Some dismiss the feud as ‘ghar ghar ki kahani’(it’s a tale of every home)
On the question regarding who the Yadavs will support if the party splits, it seems support will be divided between Mulayam and Akhilesh. Many believe that while the elders will vote for Mulayam Singh, the young will support Akhilesh.
In the caste-based identity political landscape of the state, the Muslim and Yadav communities had become the fulcrum of the Samajwadi Party’s support base since the early 1990s. This was a time when the saffron brigade had accelerated the Ram Temple movement. Mulayam’s decision then to order firing on the kar sewaks in Ayodhya in October-November 1990 to protect the Babri Mosque earned him the sobriquet of ‘Maulana Mulayam’.
Muslims had deserted the Congress after the 1992 demolition of the Babri Mosque. They held the Congress government at the Centre as responsible for the BJP government in the state razing the disputed structure. And they have not returned to them since.
Yadavs form about 10% of the state’s population with a concentration in the districts of central and eastern UP while Muslims account for 18%. Both have, by and large, remained loyal to the Samajwadi Party, barring the constituencies where the BSP has carved out a loyal following.
Now, the family feud has disillusioned both vote banks of the SP.
“Why can’t seasoned politicians like them rein in their ambitions in the larger interest of the party. Even if the party does not split, it would be a huge challenge for Mulayam and Shivpal to ensure a united push to get Akhilesh back in power,” Rambabu Yadav, a civil services aspirant says.
Lawyer Hiralal Yadav in Allahabad is, however, confident that the party’s vote base will remain intact. “They will soon close ranks as they have to face a big challenge in the next few months,” he says. Farmer Mukund Lal Yadav from Tharwai in Allahabad feels the time has come for the old guard to take the back seat or else the SP would lose the election.