Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav does not practice what he preaches.
While the SP’s manifesto, released on Saturday, vowed to abolish expensive English medium schools, stop the use of English in administration and in courts, as well as to do away with computers wherever their function could be carried out manually, the party chief has sent both his sons to English language educational institutions and assisted the setting up of colleges and hospitals in his own village Safai, equipped with cutting edge computer technology.
Mulayam’s older son, Akhilesh Yadav, 36, MP from Kannauj, holds a degree in environmental engineering from an Australian university. His younger son Prateek, 22, after passing out from a leading Lucknow school, is studying management in Britain.
Akhilesh carries two Blackberries and is so comfortable with them that he can type on both simultaneously. He runs his campaign on both Facebook and Orkut. He is also a member of the parliamentary committee on providing computers to MPs, party offices and Lok Sabha secretariat officers.
Nor has Mulayam ever voiced disapproval of his son’s interest in computers. At worst he has been mildly disdainful. “Akhilesh is always using his laptop,” he once told HT. “I don’t use computers, preferring to depend on my mental abilities. I’ve always found my electoral predictions to be more accurate than his.”
Confronted with these contradictions, Akhilesh, however, came out strongly in his father’s defence. “He is against the use of English as a medium for official work as more than half the country’s population does not understand the language,” he said. “He is not opposed to anyone learning English if he wants to.”
What about closing down English schools? “What is wrong with closing down expensive English schools?” asked Akhiliesh. “There should be uniform education in the country.”
The manifesto seems a throwback to Mulayam’s early days as UP chief minister in 1990 when he had railed against the everyday use of English. (There were no computers in use then, except at specialised institutions.) But beyond making anti-English pronouncements, he never really did anything concrete as chief minister to discourage its use.
In his two subsequent terms as chief minister, Mulayam’s antagonism to English was hardly ever seen.
“He is only trying to create a level playing field,” said Nafisa Ali, the SP’s Lucknow candidate. “The young educated English-speaking urban person may react with, ‘ Oh, my God, it’s terrible’, but the fact is that Mulayam is respecting the dignity, hard work of the majority of the youth living in rural India.”