The Yadav rulers of Uttar Pradesh are fighting for every inch of the territory they have conceded in recent times. The father-son duo has been criss-crossing the state to save – if not increase —the Samajwadi Party’s 23-seat kitty of 2009.
And even if they manage to save face, the battle will go on. In case the Third Front becomes a reality, Mulayam Singh Yadav will begin his moves to reach Delhi’s 7, Racecourse Road irrespective of how many seats he gets.
But if the BJP comes to power, the Yadav patriarch will find it tough to save his state government.
For, speculations are rife that if BJP approaches Mayawati, her first condition will be to topple the SP government. An early election will suit the BJP too.
But the astute Yadav chieftain is slowly clawing back from the situation he faced at the start of the elections.
The Muzaffarnagar riots badly dented the Akhilesh Yadav government’s image with frequent comparisons in the media between Akhilesh’s velvet gloves with Mayawati’s iron fist.
Adding to Akhilesh’s anguish was the public humiliation meted out by Yadav senior, the uncles running their own fiefdoms, the mercurial Azam Khan holding the Yadavs to ransom and indiscipline that plagued the party.
Naturally, most of the poll projections dismissed the SP as the third runner-up, closely behind Mayawati. But now, most of the poll projections show Mulayam as the second runner-up — marginally ahead of Mayawati — though still short of the numbers that could have brought smiles on their faces.
This time, Mulayam the old warrior, who always surprised his detractors every time they wrote him off, adopted a two-pronged strategy — first to aggressively convince the Muslims that they alone can stop the BJP.
As Mayawati went on an overdrive late in the day, the Muslims started looking at Mulayam as their first choice, as the father-son duo had by then rallied all the prominent clerics, besides ensuring that relief reached Muzaffarnagar fast.
Secondly, the party and the government identified their strong areas, pumping them with hosts of welfare schemes. The government also announced that 20% of its budget would go to minority-dominated areas, despite running the risk of alienating the core Yadav vote-base.
But most important was managing the elections, especially in the SP strongholds. Besides the tacit understanding that they had with the Congress, the massive deployment of cadres and the official machinery may produce some dividends.
Now with Mayawati sending out the right signal on not supporting a Modi government, the battle for the last 18 seats —essential to remain ahead of Mayawati — has intensified in the Dalit-backward-Muslim belt.