Politics is unpredictable and the Janata Parivar lived up to this long-standing reputation.
All eyes were on the Samajwadi Party’s jubilee celebrations for which Janata Parivar leaders re-assembled on one stage at Janeshwar Mishra Park in Lucknow.
There was anticipation that the coming together would spawn a Bihar-like Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) or, at least, kick-start talks on the issue as the state goes to the polls early next year.
The eagerly awaited photo-op of Janata Parivar leaders holding hands high in the air made it look almost certain that once the speeches began, the Mahagathbandhan would start taking shape. But the expectation was belied.
Except for Haryana leader Abhay Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal, none even hinted at any intention of sewing up an alliance here, at least for now.
Almost all others hinted that SP would come back to power in UP on its own. Going by such statements, it appeared that the Janata Parivar leaders came looking to work out a Third Front for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Former Bihar chief minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, who heads the Janata Dal (Secular), indicated that they trusted the SP to make it on its own in the 2017 elections and were thus focusing on a tie-up for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. If Gowda set the ball rolling for 2019, Lalu said the RJD never had any intention of contesting UP polls. “We don’t want to snatch even one seat from the SP. But we will rally behind it win maximum seats in the state in 2017. I will carry out a whirlwind campaign for it,” he said.
Gowda clearly said Mulayam should become the leader of the Third Front at the national level in 2019 to oust communal forces.
By calling UP chief minister “a charming leader”, he indicated Akhilesh should be the CM face for SP.
“Sink all differences to win UP. The SP’s UP victory is important for coming together of secular forces against the communal forces,” he said. He recognised Mulayam and Akhilesh as SP leaders, not state president Shivpal.
Lalu, who came to speak after Gowda, introduced Akhilesh as “hone wale CM Akhilesh (Akhilesh is the next UP CM).”
Most of the leaders who were actually invited by Shivpal to the event and not by Akhilesh did not acknowledge Shivpal much and spoke about Akhilesh’s calibre as CM.
Janata Dal (United) Rajya Sabha member Sharad Yadav said the UP CM was “poised to create history and win 2017 again with an absolute majority before socialist forces reunite for 2019.”
There’s no denying that Shivpal made Janata Parivar converge on the SP’s silver jubilee stage, but there were enough signals that the leaders rooted for Akhilesh, not Shivpal.
Thursday’s ‘Vikas Rath’ event organised by Akhilesh was his show of strength. The Saturday’s silver jubilee event was expected to be Shivpal’s answer to Akhilesh. But, here too the mere mention of ‘Akhilesh’ by a speaker sent the crowd into raptures. Akhilesh’s profile posters stuck atop bamboo sticks were waved all over the canopied event area.
Even two Shivpal camp leaders, transport minister Gayatri Prajapati and sacked minister Narad Rai looked happy and clapped to the tune of ‘Yeh janata hai Akhilesh ke saat (the public is with Akhilesh)’, a song performed live by a folk artiste. Narad Rai gave Rs 5,000 to the singer, Prajapati rewarded the singer with Rs 2,000.
An onlooker remarked: “Why did Netaji not reprimand Akhilesh supporters?”.
Now, the question in political circles is: will Mulayam heed Janata Parivar leaders and declare Akhilesh the party’s CM face or would he continue to say ‘elected MLAs and Parliamentary board will nominate CM after elections?
Maharashtra SP chief Abu Asim Azmi, who is considered extremely close to Mulayam, said: “There is no anti-incumbency against Akhilesh Yadav. The BJP could not make even one city smart. But you gave a smart CM to UP who in turn made entire UP smart.”