Modi-Amit Shah's surgical strike on UP has left Mayawati-Akhilesh in doldrums
With the Yadav family divided, ripples are being felt across the entire Hindi heartland as Uttar Pradesh braces for the mother of all elections.
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"Bhaiyya aur Netaji mein koi baat-cheet nahi hai (Bhaiyya and Netaji are not talking)," an old retainer at Mulayam Singh Yadav's Lucknow residence, told me.
In Uttar Pradesh, where everyone is a "bhaiyya", I confirm whether he meant Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister. He nods sadly, and adds, "Arrey, Tipu bhaiyya."
Tipu bhaiyya has apparently also declared independence by moving out of the family home, which he shared with Netaji.
With the Yadav family of Samajwadi Party standing divided, the ripples are being felt across the entire Hindi heartland as Uttar Pradesh braces for the mother of all election battles.
Tipu, who has now been declared as the CM face of SP after much reluctance, finds himself cornered as his supporters are not being given tickets by uncle Shivpal.
The UP CM has his heart set on the February 2017 elections. He has even planned his campaign around that month. Step sister-in-law Aparna Yadav will be making her debut from a Lucknow seat after much opposition from Akhilesh and his wife, Dimple Yadav.
Even the new-found bonhomie between the two political heirs, Rahul Gandhi — who is on an eternal quest to make himself relevant in UP and from there the rest of India — and Akhilesh, is a testimony to new equations being formed due to dire straits. Both are united by a shared loathing for the eternal usurper Amar Singh. And what currently seems a doomed quest to do politics differently in UP.
The "Khat Sabhas" have not yielded much and wunderkind Prashant Kishor, it is now being said, at least in Congress circles, is on his way to greener pastures of the south, to work for Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Kishor, who claims to be ideologically agnostic, has found refashioning the country's oldest political party a daunting task.
First, Congress UP chief Raj Babbar called him a "sound recordist", and to add insult, the septuagenarian treasurer of Congress, Motilal Vohra, reportedly refused to open up the coffers for him, saying the party is broke.
A reluctant Sheila Dikshit, who was projected as CM face but, for reasons best known to Gandhi, found neither any mention in his speeches nor any party poster.With the Yadav family of Samajwadi Party standing divided, the ripples are being felt across the entire Hindi heartland as Uttar Pradesh braces for the mother of all election battles. (Photo: PTI)
Dikshit struggles on valiantly, while younger leaders such as Jitin Prasada, another Brahmin face, and RPN Singh, the so-called "Thakur face", sulk in the shadows. Things don't help with Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who is upset at falling out of favour with Gandhi, all set to join her bother Vijay Bahugana in the BJP.
The saffron party is seeing a huge upswing in its fortunes as the script written by party president Amit Shah plays out. Shah has taken the risky gamble of making PM Modi the face of the party's campaign, and this will translate into two mammoth rallies every fortnight till the election.
The BJP posters are mainly of the victorious Modi-Shah duo taking credit for Army's surgical strikes and promising a similar victory for the durable BJP's burning electoral issue, Ram Mandir. It's been dusted off again and the next round of the campaign will focus on it. Old Mandir battle horses Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar are apparently chortling in anticipation of finding political salience again.
In a nod to wooing upper castes, Swati Singh has been made an office bearer as a surrogate for her husband, Dayashankar Singh, who was expelled from BJP for calling BSP supremo and four-time UP CM, Mayawati, a "prostitute".
Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary, told me with glee that the party would do well in UP. This was post Uri. From a divided house, BJP looks different today. RSS cadres, apparently, are now actively involved in working with Shah, who is mapping out UP booth by booth. Shah, I'm told, is spending all his time in Lucknow and is barely bothering to visit other poll-bound states.
All posters and the entire campaign is being managed by him. Apparently, his trusted team from Gujarat is already deployed across the state. This has dismayed the laidback UP cadre of BJP, I'm told, who are unable to match the scorching pace set by Shah.
No party has yet talked of any "vikas" (development) in UP. The issues are the trusted same old, identity and caste. Only the catastrophic law and order is still an issue.
Mayawati, who has seen her early frontrunner status affected, and was delighted at the family feud in the SP, is now grimly watching BJP's campaign based around the surgical strikes.
Mayawati and her aide Satish Mishra are targeting three groups, the Dalits, Muslims and the Brahmins. Mayawati is set to address a rally every three days across all the districts of UP starting after Diwali.
She will hammer away at a single plank: Dalits and Muslims should not waste their votes if they want to defeat BJP. She is the only alternative to the SP's "jungle raj".
On paper, if she manages this consolidation, it's a win-win. On the ground, however, BJP is giving tough competition. Hence, Mayawati is also wooing the Brahmins by restarting her old formula of "Bhaichara Sabhas".
A senior BSP leader told me in confidence, "Behenji is the only choice if BJP has to be defeated. The voters of UP are very wise. They know who to knight. She's only in her 50s. Mark my word, after she comes back as CM, the next stop is PM for her."
Fighting words, but the UP voter is used to seeing PM wannabes aplenty. A SP worker has a different spin: "Netaji has been trying to be PM for 20 years, Rahul Gandhi only wants to be PM. Modi is PM. We need a leader who wants to be CM only of UP."
Wise words. Will any of the leaders care to oblige?