Why Akhilesh Yadav is willing to step back to accommodate Bua Mayawati's demands

Despite the newfound bonhomie, the two leaders are very different in terms of experience, style of functioning and ideology.

 |  6-minute read |   21-01-2019
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Contributing 80 seats to the Lok Sabha, Uttar Pradesh, it is said, is the gateway to power — the road to Delhi goes via Lucknow. That does not always hold true, but is definitely always a strong probability.

With this in view, the newly formed SP-BSP alliance should be a reason to give the BJP leadership sleepless nights — as predicted by BSP chief Mayawati.

How effective will they prove to be?No more thorns! But how fragrant will this new alliance prove to be? (Photo: PTI)

SP and BSP — once sworn enemies — have come together after 26 years. Buoyed by the alliance, Mayawati, on her birthday recently, declared that it was UP that would give the country its new Prime Minister. As she said this, the background was abuzz with the bahujan chorus of ‘Behenji, hum tumko pradhanmantri banaayenge (Behenji, we will make you the PM).’

Mayawati has appealed to her cadre to work harder this time, so that in case of a coalition government, she can become the PM. While she makes no bones about her Prime Ministerial ambitions, her newfound ally, Akhilesh, is more diplomatic when it comes to a promise of support to fulfil his bua’s (aunt) aspirations.

In any case, the state which boasts of giving the country the most Prime Ministers is likely to play a crucial role in the coming elections.

The SP-BSP alliance as of now has left the Congress out. In fact, Mayawati was as scathing about the Congress as she was about the BJP, saying the Congress was ‘arrogant’.

Just before the formal announcement of the alliance, I had interviewed Akhilesh in the Samajwadi stronghold of Kannauj. Currently held by his wife Dimple Yadav, Kannauj is famed for its rose cultivation and the local perfumes. When I visited, the air was ripe with ‘samajwadi fragrance’. Akhilesh was launching his campaign via an e-chaupal — a new initiative — and connecting with his voters through Twitter. The mofussil town of Kannauj had posters of Akhilesh with Colin Crowell, Twitter global vice-president.

Akhilesh had a swagger in his walk — which comes from the confidence he is placing in his alliance with the BSP. After all, association with the BSP has given him favourable results earlier, in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur by-polls.

At this time, he needs Mayawati’s support more than she needs him.

With his name coming up in an illegal mining scam, where many tenders reportedly bear his signature, the threat of a CBI probe looms large upon him. In fact, Akhilesh even came up with a Deewar-esque dialogue: “Hamare paas gathbandhan hai, BJP ke paas CBI” on the lines of Shashi Kapoor’s immortal dialogue “Mere paas Maa hai.”

Akhilesh has gone ahead with this gathbandhan in spite of his father. Mayawati has still not withdrawn criminal cases against Mulayam Singh Yadav — as a rival camp within the SP, claiming to be Mulayam loyalists, repeatedly points out. Akhilesh has also ousted his rebel uncle Shivpal Yadav and the “fix-it-all” Amar Singh from the party.

Akhilesh, in fact, has so far been eager to take two steps back to accommodate Mayawati. He made the first move for the alliance, by driving to her house on January 4. This was the second time the Samajwadi leader reached out to Mayawati —he had also driven to her residence to thank her for her support in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls.

Shivpal Yadav has refused to be part of the alliance. Shivpal Yadav has refused to be part of the alliance. (Photo: PTI/file)

This bonhomie comes after two decades of bitter fighting. The two parties had been taking turns to form the government in UP — till the BJP wiped them out in 2017.

Despite the alliance born out of the need for political survival, they remain poles apart ideologically. The two leaders, besides having different styles of functioning, have inherent differences in age, ideology and experience. Akhilesh had entered politics with a clean image and a promise to flush out the filth in the system, but has now tied hands with the same old guard and has been sucked in the illegal land mining scam.

Twenty six years ago, after the Babri Masjid demolition, the BSP and SP had joined hands to defeat the BJP in the 1993 Assembly elections. They formed the government with Mulayam as the CM, but ties soon soured and the government fell, with the BSP withdrawing support. And then came the infamous ‘Guest House incident’ — which CM Yogi Adityanath and SP rebel Shivpal Yadav have repeatedly been referring to in the wake of the recent alliance.

The incident happened as an unruly mob of SP workers barged into a guest house in Lucknow on June 2, 1995, where Mayawati was holding a meeting. According to various news reports from the time, not only was her room vandalised, but the SP leaders attempted to assault her and hurled casteist slurs and sexual abuses at her.

After the bitter episode, Mayawati went on to form the government — with the BJP’s help.

Since then, the BSP supremo had remained adamant on not mending ties with the SP — a decision she changed only for the recent by-polls.

Now, there is talk the alliance might last beyond 2019 for the 2022 Assembly elections too — the 1995 demon appears to have finally been slayed.

Though the BJP has called the gathbandhan a ‘thagbandhan’, and veteran politician Amar Singh has termed it a ‘hathbandhan’, there is no doubting the fact that the alliance is formidable.

The BJP is still hoping the popularity of PM Modi will see it through. Is he enough? The BJP is still hoping the popularity of PM Modi will see it through. (Photo: PTI/file)

Though the BJP is hoping that the Lok Sabha polls will be fought on PM Modi’s name, and party chief Amit Shah, to keep the cadre energised, is claiming it will win a 51 per cent vote-share, the BJP looks in no position to repeat its 2014 tally of 71 seats. The RLD is still trying to bargain. Amar Singh, who can feel the pulse of UP politics, told me in an interview that the RLD is following the policy of wait-and-watch and might eventually tilt towards the better bargain.

Both the BSP and SP have deviated a bit from their ideological planks to assume power. Mayawati is often accused of diluting her Dalit agenda to take other sections of society along. Akhilesh Yadav too has tried to move beyond some of his father’s policies when the situation has so demanded. 

When Akhilesh was last in power — he became CM in 2012 — he tried to undo everything that Mayawati had done, attacking the BSP government for ‘building memorials instead of infrastructure’.

Now, he is banking on her for another taste of power.

Can this alliance cause a big dent? Does it rule out a second term for the BJP? Can they seamlessly transfer their votes to each other? Will the newfound camaraderie at the top translate to the ground-level cadre?

These are some of the key questions that have answers as varied as the number of political pundits. For now, the two are ready to tango!

Also read: Rise of the Third Front: Is Mayawati on the way to becoming PM in 2019?


Naghma Sahar Naghma Sahar @naghmasahar

Author is a senior fellow at Observer Research Foundation.

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