Among the opportunities thrown up by the Women’s Reservation Bill, the Yadav brigade — consisting of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, Samajwadi Party boss Mulayam Singh Yadav and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav — has spotted a chance to revive the post-Emergency ‘anti-Congressism’.
Demanding “quota within quota” in the bill, they are attempting to re-stitch their backward class and Muslim vote-banks — a combination that helped them retain power in the cow belt for two decades.
Like a blast from the past, the Yadavs are vociferously mouthing slogans of the Emergency era again.
The Congress citadel cracked for the first time when a generation of socialists burst on the political scene in 1977 and held sway for two decades. Lalu in Bihar and Mulayam in Uttar Pradesh were the products and biggest beneficiaries.
After being on the fringes of national politics for the past few months, the Yadavs have found an opportunity to re-invoke the post-Emergency formula: The Congress versus the socio-political decentralisation plank propagated by socialist ideologues.
This time, the fight of the Yadavs is more about their own political survival rather than concerns about empowerment of Muslim and OBC women.
Cutting across party lines, the OBC Lok Sabha members are reportedly in touch for possible joint action when the bill comes up in the Lok Sabha.
“Piggyback riding on the heavily burdened shoulders of backward and Muslim women, can the ageing Yadav trio hope to revive their fading political fortunes? That phase of identity or caste-based politics is long over,” said political commentator Imtiaz Ahmed.
Socialist politics over the past 20 years has been marked by a series of compromises and splits. From the Samyukta Socialist Party to Praja Socialist Party, Janata Party, Janata Dal and the Samata Party, the socialist parties have been exploding and imploding in various reincarnations.
Several former socialists like George Fernandes, Nitish Kumar and Sharad have found comfort in the BJP fold. Some like Mulayam and Lalu have fallen prey to temptations of crony culture and family politics.
“Theirs has been a legacy of political opportunism and compromises. The socialists failed because they had no political philosophy,” writer Rajendra Yadav said.
“They (Mulayam, Lalu and company) were socialists by default to begin with, they are not socialists now,” sociologist Dipankar Gupta said.
Gupta’s reasoning is exemplified in poll-bound Bihar, with former socialist and incumbent CM Nitish Kumar reportedly planning to float his own party in what is seen as a move to warm up to the Congress.