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Mulayam cycles his way through Mayawati's citadel
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow |
April 23, 2003 18:30 IST
The bicycle rally led by former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav in Lucknow on Wednesday was significant as it symbolised his return to grassroots politics in India's most populous state.
To everyone's surprise, the rally did not remain a mere ritual. Clad in white dhoti-kurta and sporting a red cap and riding a brand-new red bicycle, Yadav set off at the head of thousands of Samajwadi Party workers from the party's state headquarters on Vikramaditya Marg around 1300 IST.
With every volunteer carrying red and green party flags, the rally route reverberated with not only anti-Mayawati government slogans, but also some old ones reminiscent of the early days of the Socialist movement in the state. Yadav had cut his political teeth in the Socialist Party, which was a force to be reckoned with in Uttar Pradesh in the 1950s and 1960s.
He cycled his way through downtown Hazratganj, Aminabad and Charbagh and ended the rally near the Vidhan Sabha building after covering a distance of about 12km in more than two hours.
Undeterred by the scorching sun taking the mercury well above 41°C, Yadav made only brief halts along the way. But he made it a point to make a half-hour stop in the busy Aminabad market where he addressed a large crowd from atop a minitruck. His 25 minute speech could not be heard at a distance, however, because the battery-operated loudspeakers were not powerful enough.
Yadav's security detail -- the former defence minister is entitled to 'Z-plus' security -- had a tough time maintaining a human wall between him and the crowds who could actually reach out to him. His four-vehicle motorcade could hardly keep pace with the leader who pedalled along with his supporters, well ahead of the cars.
While the administration had kept an ambulance in readiness in case the 68-year-old politician was unable to bear the heat. Yadav displayed unusual stamina and grit. To top it all, he took the microphone again at the end of his address to demonstrate to his partymen how to raise slogans.
Shouts of hulla bol, the slogan coined by Yadav's political mentor, the late Ram Manohar Lohia, rent the air as the Samajwadi Party chief called upon his supporters to join him in hollering Garibi pe hulla bol (fight poverty); Mehngayee pe hulla bol (fight rising prices); berozgaari pe hulla bol (combat unemployment); and bhrashtachar pe hulla bol (struggle against corruption).
It was after more than a decade that one could see Yadav heading for once-popular leftist slogans like Har zor zulm ki takkar mein (fight exploitation), to be followed by the crowds with Sangharsh hamara naara hai (struggle is our slogan). Another slogan that seemed to jell with the masses was: Takht badal do, taj badal do; be-imaano ka raj badal do (change those who are in the seats of power).
Each time he halted to address the crowds, Yadav trained his guns on Mayawati, highlighting how she had unleashed a reign of terror in the state and how corruption had crossed all limits. "Now if she is threatening to put me behind bars, it is because I have committed the crime of exposing her misdeeds," he said.
"I had dared her to arrest me even before the court stayed the move," Yadav said, "and now I wish to make it loud and clear to her that even the worst of her tyranny will deter neither me nor my partymen from pursuing my mission to fight against her wrongs even if I have to spend the rest of my life in jail."
The former chief minister made repeated references to the videotapes showing Mayawati demanding cuts from the constituency development funds of her own party MPs and MLAs, besides denigrating the Hindu religion and its rituals.
He also hailed all Members of Parliament for extending support to him. "It was not an ordinary achievement that the larger chunk of members of both Houses of Parliament condemned Mayawati for her tirade against me and other Samajwadi Party leaders," he said. Parliament took the step after as many as 136 criminal cases were slapped against Yadav by the Mayawati government on a single day.
Photograph: Syed Mohd Mehdi