Akhilesh Yadav is paying the price for carving a new path for Samajwadi Party
The internal feud in the Samajwadi Party (SP) has undergone another twist. Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has said that SP legislators, once elected, will decide on who the next chief minister will be. The subtext is: Akhilesh Yadav will not be declared the CM candidate. The decision comes in the backdrop of the visible rift between Akhilesh and his backers, on one the hand, and Mulayam’s brother, Shivpal and his associates on the other. Increasingly, Mulayam himself has tilted towards his brother in the battle. While sceptics have said this may be a good-cop, bad-cop act — or Mulayam’s clever way of managing both sides — there is now adequate evidence of a deep, fundamental divide in the party. This division is as much about personalities and ambitions, as it is about the future of the Samajwadi Party itself, what it stands for, whether it will remain mired solely in identity politics or will go beyond and become a more modern party, and its broader vision for Uttar Pradesh. And in this division, the old guard is — unfortunately — winning for now.
Across the state, if there is one good thing people, including critics, say about the SP — it is that Akhilesh has been like a breath of fresh air. He is seen as well-intentioned, as sincere, and as committed to a development agenda, in tune with aspirations of the youth. He also practised the politics of hope. This is a departure from past CMs who thrived on the politics of resentment — Kalyan Singh stoked the dislike of Muslims, Mulayam stokes fears among Muslims, Mayawati’s politics rested on historic injustice. Whether Akhilesh was able to deliver, whether this is just an image or reality, can be debated. But the modernist impulse he brought to the party is undeniable.
This is precisely what the SP old guard could not tolerate. For them, the state is nothing more than an instrument to extract profit. Politics is all about maintaining caste-based patronage networks, which can be nourished in power and utilised in elections. This includes empowering party cadre to defy the law, and assert power over others — including the administration. Shivpal would have been happy if Akhilesh was a mere figurehead, while they continued their politics as usual. The CM is paying the price for his effort to carve out a new path. Mulayam’s decision is a firm signal that he stands with the older, more degenerate political tradition in his party — and if in the process the SP loses the election, so be it.