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'Nobody can beat Mulayam without his own desire to be beaten'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
January 04, 2017 08:26 IST
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'Mulayam has by design cornered the people's attention back to the party and Akhilesh.'
'People were only talking of Modi and demonetisation, but now suddenly everybody is talking of Akhilesh and the SP.'
'My personal subjective impression is that the SP is neck and neck with the BJP.'

IMAGE: Mulayam Singh Yadav's war with his son has ensured that it is the only thing that people talk of. Forget Modi, forget demonetisation. Shrewd, isn't it? Photograph: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

As father and son continue to battle it out in the Yadav versus Yadav war in Uttar Pradesh, Dr A K Verma, director, Centre for the Study of Society and Politics, Kanpur, decodes the Samajwadi Party crisis and its impact on the UP assembly polls outcome, in an interview to's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

During our earlier conversation in September 2016, you had said 'Mulayam is an outdated ticket in the Samajwadi Party'.
But he is still trying to prove that he is the boss and is going all out against son Akhilesh. What is happening?

I would not buy this line of argument right now. I would rather subscribe to the original line that I took, that probably all this is to ensure that Akhilesh has full control over the party and the government.

I see a very shrewdly schemed approach in all this. Though publicly it appears that Mulayam is demonstrating that he is against Akhilesh, his real intention is to ensure that the SP is in the right hands.

Is this all drama, then?

As a shrewd politician and the person who has laid the foundation of the SP, Mulayam has to ensure that the SP has to move forward after he has completed his innings.

I do not think the people in his camp like Shivpal Yadav or his brand of politicians have any clout with the people.

The only person who could move the party forward and its ideology is Akhilesh.

Is there a secret understanding between Mulayam and Akhilesh?

It is not a secret, it's very much in the open and it is openly talked about. The body language and other things are clearly demonstrative of that.

In November, Ram Gopal Yadav's suspension from the party was revoked and it seemed that things were going fine.
What went wrong in a month's time before the party split in December?

As a patron of the SP, Mulayam has done a great service to the party by completely marginalising the prime minister and his demonetisation scheme. He has by design cornered the people's attention back to the party and Akhilesh.

For the last two months, nobody was talking about anything but Narendra Modi and demonetisation. But today, people are only talking of Akhilesh and the party; that is a big advantage.

Don't you think this will have a negative pushback from the voters because of all the infighting. Voters may not opt for Akhilesh.

I think we are under-rating the wisdom of the voters. Probably, voters are already with Akhilesh and even the Samajwadi Party is behind the Akhilesh faction and not the Shivpal faction.

Prime Minister Modi had a huge rally at Lucknow on Monday.
Don't you feel the infighting in the Samajwadi Party will benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party as the mood seems to be swinging in the BJP's favour?

As far as numbers and strength at the rally is concerned, it was mind-boggling.

But somehow, I found the rally to be unresponsive. I would not call it a successful rally, but, of course, in terms of numbers. it was fine.

However, with the kind of hype that was built around it, I could sense disappointment among the people.

Why do you think Shivpal misread the mood in the party that all the MLAs were with Mulayam and him?

In UP, Akhilesh in the last five years has developed a good, clean, image of a politician who is young and committed to development.

You may buy it or not, that is a different matter, as per your political orientation. But there is consensus that Akhilesh Yadav is focused on development and has a clean image.

These are the qualities people are looking in their chief minister.

The only disadvantage about Akhilesh is that he was a little shy and was on a weak ticket while taking strong decisions.

But now by eliminating his uncle Shivpal, who doesn't have a good image among the public, he has shown he has full control over the government.

Now people think that he is not only clean and development focused, but also in complete power.

That is a very important development.

IMAGE: 'Though publicly it appears that Mulayam is demonstrating that he is against Akhilesh, his real intention is to ensure that the SP is in the right hands. Photograph: Kind courtesy Akhilesh Yadav/Facebook

Why couldn't Mulayam build bridges between Shivpal and Akhilesh?

The bridge was beyond repair. If you remember in 2012 there was high voltage drama in the SP and with great difficulty Mulayam could keep Shivpal away from the chief minister's post.

He knew Shivpal's genuine desire to become chief minister, which was very natural. They have been together for a very long time.

It was not easy for Mulayam to brush away Shivpal's ambition and therefore he understood that if he could not brush away his ambition, then it is better to stand by Shivpal and at the same time do something that is in the interest of the party and its future.

Out of the 224 SP MLAs, only 22 turned up in support for Mulayam. Why is that?

There are two approaches to this. One is that it has the internal blessings of Mulayam Singh and therefore this happened.

Secondly, most of the people who are in politics clearly understand that Mulayam Singh's innings is at the fag end and therefore the future is with Akhilesh.

Also, Akhilesh is the incumbent chief minister and head of the party, so they feel there is a future for them with Akhilesh.

Is an alliance with the Congress possible for Akhilesh at this juncture?

It is probably a little late for that. It will be good for Akhilesh to go all alone.

If he falls short of certain numbers to form the government, then he can form a government with the Congress.

IMAGE: The Samajwadi Party's war has now spilled over to Delhi with both warring factions fighting over the party's 'Cycle' symbol. Photograph: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

Why are they fighting over the symbol? Why is the 'cycle' so important?

Mulayam's intention would be, if my analysis is correct, then I think he would try that the cycle symbol is seized by the Election Commission and not be allotted to him or the Akhilesh faction.

He will not want his own faction to get the symbol because he would not want his own faction to get an advantage.

If they go separately without the cycle, then no one will get an advantage.

And whatever party symbol Akhilesh's side gets will become the symbol of the Samajwadi Party in the future.

This is what Indira Gandhi did when she split from the Congress. She got the 'cow and calf' symbol whereas the Congress' original symbol was the bullock cart.

Indira Gandhi split the Congress to form her Congress-R and the Nijalingappa Congress became the Congress-O.

Indira Gandhi got the 'cow and calf' symbol, which later on was allotted as the hand symbol which till today continues to be the Congress symbol.

Will Mulayam Singh end up like N T Rama Rao?

(Laughs). Don't under-rate Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Nobody can beat Mulayam without his own desire to be beaten.

Will this internal politics benefit Akhilesh politically?

He has already generated a lot of sympathy. People know that Mulayam Singh's innings is over.

They also know if Mulayam Singh is running the party, then it is actually Shivpal who is running the party.

Even party people went with Akhilesh and this means he is the real boss.

Shivpal Yadav's innings is almost over.

Do you feel Akhilesh will win the UP elections?

I am curious now. This is because in the first week of December our study was showing the BJP at number one, but after this drama I feel Akhilesh has the advantage.

People were only talking of Modi and demonetisation after November 8, but now suddenly everybody is talking of Akhilesh and the SP, which is a big electoral advantage.

Things have changed and my personal subjective impression is that now the SP is neck and neck with the BJP.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf /