Can a CBI crackdown on 'corruption' in Akhilesh Yadav's regime prevent an SP-BSP tie-up in UP?

The CBI allegedly being used to settle political scores surprises few. But the question many are asking is, is the target Akhilesh, but the message for Mayawati?

 |  6-minute read |   09-01-2019
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No sooner than the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) went cracking down on the mining mafia that allegedly thrived during the 2012-17 Samajwadi Party regime in UP, former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav began to cry hoarse. “This is an attempt by the BJP to create hurdles in the path of the SP-BSP alliance that alone can oust the BJP from power”, Akhilesh said in Lucknow.

And that may not be just Akhilesh’s contention.

It is widely believed that CBI raids on several places linked to the multi-billion rupee mining racket in UP could not be looked at without political undertones.

After all, the country’s premier investigation agency started with searches in houses reportedly belonging to BSP leader Satyadev Dikshit as well as allegedly to SP MLC (Member of the Legislative Council) Ramesh Mishra, both hailing from Hamirpur — better known as the base of sand mining in the state.

Even the crackdown on various properties reportedly owned by a woman IAS officer B Chandrakala has political implications on account of her alleged proximity to senior SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav, who also happens to be Akhilesh Yadav’s dearest uncle.

Chandrakala’s alleged clout with the second-most powerful man in the Akhilesh dispensation apparently got her prized postings as district magistrate in five districts with immense mining potential.

While there was no doubt that the CBI move was in pursuance of an order of the Allahabad High Court that had asked for a probe into the alleged mining scam, the timing of the raid speaks volumes.

ak-maya_010919103357.jpgFuture Wave? Will an SP-BSP alliance materialise in Uttar Pradesh? (Photo: PTI)

It is no secret that illegal mining remains a major source of amassing wealth as well as filling the coffers of political parties. After all, the court had ordered the probe way back in 2016, following which cases were registered against several persons suspected to be involved in illegal mining in parts of Uttar Pradesh.

However, no action was initiated all this while by the investigating agency — which swooped down on the suspects only within hours of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati’s formal announcement of an electoral alliance for the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha battle in the state. 

The fact remains that 2019 would determine the political destiny of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose one-man army took the BJP to an unprecedented win in 2014. The Modi juggernaut was first jolted when the SP and BSP joined hands to give BJP a run for its money at three successive Lok Sabha by-elections in UP in 2018.

Significantly, these included the all-important seats of Gorakhpur, held for five successive terms by none other than UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath as well as Phulpur, held by deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. The third humiliating defeat came in Kairana, where the BJP’s nominee Mriganka Singh lost to a combined Rashtriya Lok Dal-SP-BSP-Congress candidate Tabassum Hasan.

BJP was in for a shock yet again when the Noorpur state assembly seat was wrested by the SP. Here too, the other key opposition parties, including BSP, RLD and Congress, abstained from the contest.

No wonder, therefore, any initiative towards building a united opposition was bound to ring warning bells for the BJP.

And sure enough, nothing could be more lethal than an SP-BSP combine. Evidently, that perception became quite obvious on the eve of the recent assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, when the CBI swung into action, interestingly, no sooner than the SP and BSP started cosying up to the Congress.

bsp-congress_010919103602.jpgHello, CBI! The agency, many say, swung into action only when SP and BSP started cosying up to the Congress. (Photo: PTI)

That time, it was reportedly Mayawati’s brother Anand Kumar on the CBI radar. Shortly thereafter, Mayawati was heard raising such tall demands before the Congress that eventually frustrated all moves for an anti-BJP grand alliance (Mahagathbandhan) between the Congress, BSP and SP.

Mayawati has been on the CBI scanner ever since investigations began in the Rs 150-crore Taj corridor scam way back in 2003.

The investigation witnessed several ups and downs over the years and also gave rise to a case of disproportionate assets against Mayawati. Successive Union governments — the Congress-led UPA or the BJP–led NDA — systematically kept the case alive with the alleged intent of influencing the BSP to fall in line whenever needed. 

Likewise, the Mulayam Singh Yadav clan too remained on tenterhooks for years with the CBI keeping its sword dangling above them in a similar disproportionate assets case that was still hanging fire. And sure enough, if the Congress managed to ensure SP support in times of crisis, the BJP too knows how and when to needle the SP into submission.

Therefore, one finds reason to believe Akhilesh Yadav when he accuses the ruling dispensation of attempting to disrupt the alliance between SP and BSP, clearly the most formidable political combine to give the BJP a run for its money in UP.

Mind you, it was UP that gave the saffron party the surge it got in 2014 when, along with its allies, BJP bagged as many as 73 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats. Of the remaining seven, SP retained five, Congress two — while the BSP ended with naught.

modi-shah-copy_010919103649.jpgWill sweet turn sour? As the SP-BSP firm up their combine, rumours are rife of frayed nerves in the BJP. (Photo: PTI)

With traditional political foes SP and BSP deciding to eventually let bygones be bygones and join hands for a larger political objective, not only did this reinforce the leaders of both the parties with confidence that stood completely shaken after 2014, it also raised questions about the much-hyped invincibility of a Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo.

That it was unnerving for the BJP leadership was spelt out in various ways.

While the CBI crackdown could be viewed like an oblique counter-attack, the Modi cabinet’s sudden decision to announce reservation in government jobs for the economically weak among upper castes also appears to my mind a blatant move to woo upper castes.

After all, the SP-BSP rapprochement could lead to a total realignment of various vote banks.

Political pundits see the vast majority of Dalits falling in line with the BSP and the larger chunk of Muslims, Yadavs and also a number of other OBCs with the SP. That could together pose a serious threat to the BJP, for whom this is now a desperate battle for survival.

If one were to go by the old dictum — everything is fair in love and war — the alleged use of CBI as a tool to settle political scores should be no surprise for anyone. 

Also read: Why 10 per cent quota for the upper castes' 'economically weak' is a bad idea


Sharat Pradhan Sharat Pradhan @sharatpradhan21

The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst based in Lucknow.

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