When Akhilesh Yadav raised the banner of revolt against his party’s plans to field mafia don-turned politician DP Yadav in the 2012 Assembly elections, he was hailed as the young man set to reinvent the Samajwadi Party.
He again emerged as a hero when he stood up against his all-powerful father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Yadav's sponsored move to go for a merger with dreaded don-turned politician Mukhtar Ansari’s Qaumi Ekta Dal.
Recently, he earned brownie points by taking on the highly-tainted mining minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, who, like many others in his cabinet, was apppointed by his father.
Sure enough, Akhilesh began to be seen as the run-of-the-mill Samajwadi Party leader who was determined to cast his party in a new mould – where the criminal and the tainted would be kept at arm’s length.
|The chief minister was widely applauded for cracking the whip to tame the errant mining minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati.|
However, barely two months after he forced Mukhtar Ansari’s inglorious exit from the SP fold, the UP chief minister has stunned all and sundry by campaigning for the controversial Prajapati. This came only a few days after Prajapati, Mulayam's blue-eyed boy, was chastised by the country’s apex court - which directed the police to book him in a rape case - an eventuality he had managed to avert for long.
To imagine that he was acting under some kind of pressure from his father would seem ridiculous. After all, he had not just successfully sidelined the father, but also clearly usurped his position to become the undisputed master of his party. Surely, Akhilesh was not going out to campaign for each of his party’s 298 candidates in the fray and the heavens wouldn't have fallen had he skipped the tainted minister’s constituency.
About two months back, when the Yadav family feud was at its peak, Akhilesh’s decision to divest Prajapati of the lucrative portfolio of mining was viewed as a move towards clipping the controversial minister’s wings.
The chief minister was widely applauded for cracking the whip to tame the errant minister.
Prajapati’s claim to fame was his victory against Congress nominee Amita Singh, who was also the wife of Sanjay Singh, the scion of the erstwhile princely state of Amethi – the all-important political bastion of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
But the way he made his way to the top - from being a non-entity to the most-talked about minister in the Akhilesh cabinet - speaks volumes of his skills to impress all and sundry with the weight of his wealth.
After having tried his luck with three unsuccessful electoral attempts, he somehow managed to sneak his way up to Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav by donating a bagful of Rs 25 lakh to the party fund at an SP meet in Agra, in 2011.
What followed was phenomenal: after getting a berth as a minister of state for irrigation in Akhilesh’s council of ministers in 2012, his first smart move was to shift to the more lucrative mining ministry, with independent charge, in the next cabinet reshuffle.
Little surprise that the man known as a BPL (below poverty line) card holder until 2007 became one of the most affluent ministers in the SP government.
His proximity to Mulayam was best described by an insider as “the SP chief’s movie hall companion”.
The joke that did the rounds in Lucknow’s political circles was that “he visited Mulayam every evening with a briefcase, that was invariably left behind by him.”
Sources close to Akhilesh always maintained that Prajapati was persona non grata for him.
Under what compulsion then did Akhilesh campaign for Prajapati, a man he was known to have castigated publicly on several occasions?
Yes, Akhilesh’s arrival at Prajapati’s rally venue was preceded by much melodrama. With tears rolling down his cheeks, a hysterical Prajapati got off the stage just before Akhilesh’s arrival - soon after he was told that the CM would not share the dais with him. He chose to sit with the audience.
Interestingly, Akhilesh too chose not to take Prajapati’s name and only concentrated on seeking votes for his party.
But, can he claim that he did not go campaigning for the tainted minister whose "rags to riches" story was glaring evidence of his blatant misuse of the mining ministry, well before his alleged involvement in a rape case of which the Supreme Court took cognisance?
Akhilesh’s act of commission gave a handle to all his political adversaries, who were busy throwing brickbats at him - and SP’s defence that the CM did not share the dais with Prajapati has failed to cut any ice.
There is reason to believe that there's more than meets the eye. After all, the lure of lucre can win many hearts.