Akhilesh double-rides cycle with Rahul; to sunshine or sunset
The Election Commission settled decisively the war of attrition going on for months between father and son for control of the Samajwadi Party (SP). It without any ambiguity allotted the party’s Cycle symbol to Akhilesh Yadav, and dismissed Mulayam Singh’s claim, based on the plea that he was the original signatory of the application for Cycle symbol. While Akhilesh in support of his claim that the party was with him submitted a list of supporters- 215 MLAs out of 229, maximum number of MLCs and party office-bearers.
Akhilesh thus got the Cycle, which Rahul is to double-ride. Mamata Didi and Lalu uncle have appointed themselves cheer-leaders. Ajit Singh is likely to be part of the alliance between Akhilesh–led SP and Rahul-led Congress to contest the Assembly election, the first round of which in UP is slated on February 11.
The most ebullient are Congress leaders. They were resigned to a shameful thrashing, with their Party likely to get between five and nine seats in the Assembly polls. But, now they are having grandiose dreams. “The Congress is hoping that the new mojo of “Teflon Tipu” who seems to have shrugged off anti-incumbency and emerged as a “Jagat (universal) bhaiyya” will rub off on Gandhi and help the Congress climb out of the abyss of single digit numbers that it was staring at,” noted Swati Chaturvedi, a columnist.
It is learnt that Akhilesh and Rahul will address at least three massive rallies (called “raila” in UP) to showcase the “secular anti-BJP front.” The crowd that might gather basically because of Akhilesh, one can safely bet will be attributed to the presence of Rahul by his sycophants.
The question puzzling most political pundits is as to why with everything going his way, Akhilesh is keen to enter into an alliance with Congress, RLD of Ajit Singh and RJD of Lalu Yadav? He possibly wants ‘insurers’ for ensuring victory in case vengeful father Mulayam contests against him and rallied his durable “Maulana Mulayam” cadre by accusing Junior of being “anti-Muslim” and not selecting enough minority candidates. Junior Yadav will hope to reassure and signal to the 19 per cent Muslim vote that he’s as “pro-minority” as his father. No signs yet of how?
But how good is Congress as an insurer? Akhilesh must be knowing that on its own Rahul cannot secure seats more than a handful, in fact will not be able to reach double-digit. How can being in an alliance, magically make Congress win enough seats to be able to help Akhilesh, if he fails to get to the 202 mark, needed to claim majority.
Entering into a pact is easy but ensuring transfer of votes is not! Yadavs are less than nine per cent, so even if they listen to Akhilesh and vote Congress it won’t be enough for its nominees to win. Its difficult to visualise Congress getting enough seats to be of help to SP.
On the other hand with Rahul double-riding the cycle, any hope of a post-poll alliance in case no party achieves majority with the BJP is ruled out. Akhilesh cannot even dream of an alliance with the BSP, his traditional opponent. But Akhilesh, albeit indirectly, will help revive Congress in the state, by projecting Rahul at rallies jointly addressed by them, and Dimple campaigning along with Priyanka. Once the Congress gets its foot-hold, it could grow into an Ogre to haunt Akhilesh, sooner than later. The Congress is known to bite the hand that feeds it. Another loss for Akhilesh will be a total breakdown of any link with the BJP in the future. Because either at joint rallies with Akhilesh, Rahul will talk of nothing else but denigrating Modi.
Ironically, as a senior SP leader said, “Now that Tipu has emerged out of his shadow so completely, who knows whether Netaji will do one of the flip flops he’s famous for and bless Tipu?” What is clear is that Junior after his convincing victory will choose to be gracious in keeping with his Nice Guy image. So why he has been so keen to align with the Congress?
The BJP, whose chief Amit Shah met multiple times with Amar Singh and is believed to have encouraged his role in the Samajwadi feud, will now be watching anxiously hoping the Muslim vote still splits between the Akhilesh-Congress alliance and the Netaji faction of the SP.
With the opposition consolidating like in the case of Bihar, the lack of a Chief Ministerial face and the total reliance on Brand Modi could come back to haunt Shah. The duo of Shah and Modi are calling all the shots in the UP election and will bear the responsibility of the result. A win will hugely power Modi’s general election campaign and a loss would be a huge dent to his current unquestioned hold over the party.
Mayawati, who faced some defection by important leaders to BJP, has claimed that BSP alone can defeat BJP. Her new slogan about the two desperate dynasts coming together, is that the voters of UP to “teach the entitled a lesson.” She is also boasting that a desperate Congress had approached her first and she turned them down because she believes she will win on her own. But, not taking any chances, she’s also repeatedly taking a public oath of not building anymore memorials to herself.
The prediction at present is that main fight will be between the BJP and the BSP. As the voting pattern in the 2014 general election suggest, a chunk of Yadav and non-Yadav OBC votes and a big segment of Dalit votes have shifted to the BJP. Even if this shift is credited to the Modi wave and the fact it was a national election, it’s unlikely that there would a complete reversal of the trend in 2017.
The BSP, on the other hand, stands to gain in case of a possible shift of Muslim votes from the Samajwadi Party to it. As the equations stand now BJP is ahead in the race, even though it is yet to make its strategy public.
A columnist says Akhilesh won’t mind a defeat if his performance is respectable. It’s obvious from his moves that he is thinking long-term, planning to grow as a leader on his own strength, away from rival power centres in the family and the baggage of the network of patronage and loyalties that the family brings.
‘It is possible that he believes that the original supporters of the Samajwadi Party would veer towards him sooner or later since the family has no other leader to offer at this point. Mulayam is aging and is not likely to be politically active for long; no one else has assumed a stature as leader yet.‘Shivpal Yadav may be the nuts and bolts man of the party with considerable sway over the party’s organisation but he certainly is not a chief minister material.
This Assembly election assumes importance because it will either propel into higher political orbit or push Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and BSP president Mayawati into a long eclipse. And it will be the election that could either redeem Rahul Gandhi or deliver the final, damning verdict on his political effectiveness. Another development is the proliferation of Ayaa and Gayaa Rams in the Congress and BSP. The two are hamstrung by defections of major leaders.
The BJP continues to bask in the glory of its 71 Lok Sabha seats — which translate into 337 Assembly seats. The BJP finds itself with perhaps 20 options in each of the 403 constituencies, a position it has never been in before the start of a campaign. Swami Prasad Maurya, once a pillar of the BSP and its leader in the Assembly, is now in the BJP. So is Dalbir Singh, who was the leader in the House for Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. Six MLAs of the Congress, 3 of the SP, and 13 of the BSP are now in the BJP. The Congress was humiliated by its former state president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who joined the BJP in October 2016.
The BJP’s caste strategy for 2017 does not differ significantly from 2014, other than factoring in the effects of the divisions in the SP. It is targeting non-Yadav OBCs, non-Jatav Dalits (the Jatavs are believed to be firmly behind the BSP), and Brahmins, Banias and Rajputs. Six major OBC communities who live along rivers — such as Kewats and Nishads — are likely to get their due this time.
Says Sheela Bhatt, that the common man of UP, “the cleverest of all Indian voters”, believes “intensely” that the move to scrap high-denomination notes would benefit him. “Modi ne jo kiya usme mera faayda hai” — this is the heart of the voter’s assessment of demonetisation. After all the detailed analysis we return to the question, where does the newly crowned head of SP stands in the political flux on the eve of the poll.
Whether double-riding with Rahul, Akihilesh’s cycle take him again to CM’s residence or into misty sunset. More odds are being offered for the latter.
by Vijay Dutt