Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav might have repeatedly castigated his Chief Minister son Akhilesh Yadav for his loose grip over the administration. However, when it came to fixing responsibility for the party’s virtual devastation in the recently concluded Lok Sabha election, his action has proved that blood is thicker than water.
In an abrupt move, Mulayam stripped every office bearer in all party units and committees of their positions, other than Akhilesh, who will continue to hold dual charge of the state government as well as the party organization. Barely 24 hours earlier, he had sacked 36 of the 62 hand-picked party-men, for whom very special positions with added ex-officio status of minister of state were created. Ironically, most of them had no role whatsoever to play in the election campaign.
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Besides being chief minister, Akhilesh was also state president of Samajwadi Party -- a position that he usurped from his uncle Shivpal Yadav well before he rode the party to power in March 2012.
Known for being a staunch protagonist of his ideologue Ram Manohar Lohia’s tirade against dynastic politics, Mulayam left no stone unturned to promote dynastic and family politics.
The party’s performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha election has put a final stamp on his passion for promoting his own family. The Samajwdi Party could retain only five of its 2009 tally of 21 seats in this poll. And these included two seats won by Mulayam, one by his daughter-in-law Dimple, and the remaining two by his nephews.
The poll results were bound to stun Mulayam , who had been nurturing designs of riding on to the prime ministerial chair in the event of a hung parliament. Often exuding confidence that both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party would fail to cobble up majority, Mulayam continued to talk about emergence of a Third Front, which remained a distant dream.
However, despite the shocking results, he was out to shield the son in somewhat the same manner as Congress president Sonia Gandhi was doing with her son Rahul. After all, the Congress too had moved heaven and earth to pass on the responsibility to all and sundry except the mother or son. It was another matter that both Sonia and Rahul took turns to make a visibly ritualistic offer to step down -- that was dutifully opposed by the party loyalists, who consider the Gandhi tag as the only glue that had held the country’s oldest party together.
Interestingly, it appears that the Yadav clan was out to do a Gandhi family in Uttar Pradesh. On being asked if he would step down in the manner that Nitish Kumar had done while owning up responsibility for his party’s reverses in Bihar, Akhilesh told media persons on Wednesday, “Netaji (Mulayam) was analysing the reasons for our party’s debacle in UP.”
And sure enough Mulayam’s axe fell on the organisational units at various levels across the state, save his son, who would continue to stick on to the most important position in the party. Even 15 cells within the party organisations as well as frontal organisation of the party were dissolved in one stroke on Thursday.
Unlike the Gandhi family, the Yadav clan shied away from even putting up a façade of “offering to resign”. Political observers were of the view that SP’s case as slightly different from that of the Congress. As against the Gandhis being seen as the binding factor in the Congress, the SP has a family insider Shivpal Yadav already aspiring to upstage his nephew.
Known for his organisational skills, which he had learnt from none other than his elder brother Mulayam, Shivpal is known to be maintaining a better hold over the party
organization than his nephew. The common feeling within the party ranks is that but for Mulayam, who he cannot afford to defy, Shivpal would have left no stone unturned to
upstage Akhilesh , whose governance was as much under serious question as his organizational capabilities.
Making a formal announcement, SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary told a press conference, “The party chief felt that it was time to overhaul the party organisation, hence he has taken a decision to dissolve all party units and constituent bodies across the state.” He was not ready to answer why the state president (Akhilesh) has been spared.
As for Shivpal, he had expressed his reservations against Akhilesh’s anointment as chief minister on day one itself. He had been strongly of the view that the chief minister’s mantle should have been donned by Mulayam himself and Akhilesh could have done a deputy (like the Punjab Badal model).
Today, after the party had suffered a serious drubbing at the hustings, Shivpal’s view was being discussed in hushed tones within the party circles. However, with Mulayam having come out in open support of the son, neither Shivpal nor his supporters were ready to speak out.
It was another matter that several senior party-men had begun to debate on the future of the party and the government under Akhilesh. While Mulayam has gone through the mill and in the tradition of a true wrestler in him, he has been adept in the art of bouncing back after losing a bout, son Akhilesh has yet to rough it out with vicissitudes of life.
With less than three years to go for the next state assembly polls in which the BJP under a now clearly charismatic Narendra Modi would move heaven and earth to grab power in UP, Akhilesh clearly faces the toughest challenge of his life.
The reprieve granted by his father, who has for the moment, found many scapegoats, may not last very long . Unless the son rises to the occasion to prove that he means business at long last, it could well be the end of the road for the young Yadav scion, who would find it difficult to explain why he missed the opportunity of a lifetime.