Autumn of the patriarch as Akhilesh rides the storm

January 1, 2017, 9:50 am

Autumn of the patriarch as Akhilesh rides the storm

Autumn of the patriarch as Akhilesh rides the storm

Autumn of the patriarch as Akhilesh rides the storm

Amit Sengupta started journalism when he was 19, even while he was working in the relief camps as a student of JNU after the State sponsored genocide of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984. Since then, he has been an independent president of the JNU Students’ Union, writer, activist and editor, closely involved with multiple people’s movements and conflict zones in contemporary India. He was Executive Editor, Hardnews magazine, South Asian partner of Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris. He has earlier worked as a senior editor and journalist with Tehelka, Outlook, The Hindustan Times, Asian Age, The Pioneer, The Economic Times and Financial Chronicle. Till recently he has been a professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.

It might seem like a bad joke in bad faith, but, this was truly an inevitable and inverted paradigm shift of a ‘failed coup’ by an ageing and ailing patriarch, backed by corrupt and discredited satraps, sundry fixers and dubious relatives. From the beginning to the end, it was bound to fail. The failed coup was written on the wall, in bad handwriting. Indeed, this is the last nail in the crumbling empire of ‘Netaji’, after an illustrious political career of brazen opportunism, debauchery of ‘socialism’, crude caste, identity and family politics, and choosing to strategically align with Hindutva and fascist forces at crucial times in his political life so as to defeat the ‘secular’ forces.

The fast-folding events in Lucknow on new year’s eve might appear to have become a damp squib, but the anti-catharsis was as predictable as the brand of ‘samajwad’ (socialism) publicly displayed in the company of Amitabh Bachchan, Amar Singh, Subroto Roy ‘Sahara’ and Mukesh Ambani, in those hyper-glory heydays of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s yeh dosti hum nahin torenge, torenge dum magar, tera saath na chodenge. This was classically rich man’s ‘socialism’ – Mulayam style – as devoid from both, his mentor, Ram Manohar Lohia’s original principles, or, his ‘socialist’ student days, and this was for all to see, as inverted and perverted as it could be. Like all good things, this too had to end. And, perhaps, he regrets it to this day.

In Lucknow, the failure of the coup unleashed by the father ended in the autumn of the patriarch on Saturday, December 31. The Mulayam camp failed in attracting the majority of the party’s MLAs, MPs, district and local leaders, and the youth wing especially. Indeed, the huge crowds outside the house of both father and son were decisively shouting anti-Mulayam and anti-Shivpal slogans. That Akhilesh took the bull by its horns was as transparent when he declared his own poll list; it was the final straw of a family battle-line in which the father and the conspiring uncle (along with other sundry family members) lost the battle to the young Turks, marking a new future for the party. With a majority of MLAs on his side, the ball was on his side of the court and it was clearly Advantage Akhilesh. Even a partisan Governor, a BJP appointee, could sense that.

That on Saturday, despite threats by the Mulayam-Shivpal camp, majority of the legislators, MPs, party leaders, young cadre and supporters chose to openly stick with Akhilesh is predictable, not only because he is the savvy and young face of the party’s future, but also because he has consistently been a canny and deceptive chief minister who has been able to brush aside both anti-incumbency and charges of bad governance and corruption on him. He has been successfully able to project himself as a youthful, uncorrupted, polite and decent ‘vikash purush’ who has been against all odds trying to carry the bimaru state’s infinite baggage and burden into a new dawn of development and progress. He always appears to be a moderate, even on demonetisation, or Muzaffarnagar riots and Dadri. And, there is no doubt that despite the clout and patronage of patriarch ‘Netaji’, it was his cycle yatras and smiling face sitting atop a bicycle on the rugged lanes and bylanes of arid and dusty UP which gave the Samajwadi Party a huge majority in the last assembly elections.

Even the Muzaffarnagar riots and the clean sweep by the BJP in the results of the Lok Sabha elections in UP seem to have left him untouched. He blamed it on the local administration and the police, even as it was surely a complete failure of his amateur chief ministership, with the Hindutva forces led by the BJP upping the vicious communal polarisation card across western UP with its socially engineered propaganda of love jihad etc. Killings and rapes followed by thousands of displaced Muslim villagers, with the communal polarisation successful and complete across western UP. And, this, in an area, which did not have either a record of communal violence in the recent past, and, where, the BJP had no presence, especially in rural areas, with the Jats once solidly behind Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Dalits behind Mayawati’s BSP, and Congress strong among Muslims and other communities. The UP administration all but collapsed in the face of mass mobilisation by Rightwing, communal forces engineered by the BJP. Indeed, this was one crucial reason why the BJP won so overwhelming in UP in the Lok Sabha elections of May 2014. Yet, somehow, Akhilesh seems to have been untouched by the events, even as his administration has followed up by moving against local Hindutva leaders and restoring a semblance of order, so that even the pseudo ‘Kairana’ card circulated by the BJP, collapsed completely. Clearly, the focus in the area has shifted towards the farmer crisis and demonetisation, despite the remnants of communal polarisation still lingering in the bylanes.

As for the family feud, the writing was written on the wall because the extended ruling family of Mulayam Singh Yadav was divided like a house of cards. His upstart and big bully brother, Shivpal Yadav, backed by old buddy Amar Singh, as slippery as ever, routinely upset the family cart due to the rather unsavoury company Shivpal keeps, and his transparently blind ambition unleashed, without an electoral or mass base, nor an iota of support within the larger cadre and support structure of the party.

That the ‘uncle’ was plotting and scheming for days on end against the ‘nephew’, and, finally, with the ‘unwelcome entry’ of Amar Singh, tried every trick in the game to thwart both the party’s working as well as ‘good governance’ under Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, on a ritualistic basis, is a fact well-known among insiders. That Mulayam routinely played along, despite warnings by saner voices, was seen in the manner in which Akhilesh loyalists were dropped, harassed and then taken back, or the manner in which even bureaucratic decisions taken by the chief minister was being hemmed in with back-room scheming. It has been a long night of knives in Lucknow as far as the Samajwadi Party’s inner feud has been concerned.

That there has been a clear divide between the satraps in the party is also known. Ramgopal Yadav and Azam Kham are pitched squarely against Shivpal Yadav and Amar Singh, who, is, reportedly, currently in London on new year’s eve. That Akhilesh and his camp disliked Amar Singh’s machinations, and wanted Mulayam to get out of his clutches, is also a factor, which kept repeating itself in the family squabble. That there are some mysterious reasons why Amar Singh still has a strong hold over the patriarch, is also a mystery well known in the party circles. Besides, with Mulayam’s compromised and opportunistic politics, the BJP and BSP were sensing a political shift in UP, despite the Muslim-Yadav combination remaining steadfast, and Mayawati failing to woo the Muslims with her essential Dalit vote base.

Indeed, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s secular credentials have been time and again shown to be opportunistic. In Gujarat, after the genocide of 2002, he put up candidates in the assembly polls to cut into Congress votes. Sources pointed out to a late BJP strategist’s hand behind this unethical game to benefit Narendra Modi, and that too after the carnage. Earlier, during the Vajpayee regime, it was Mulayam who refused to back Sonia Gandhi, leaving her in the lurch, a humiliation she refused to forget. Predictably, despite having a sizeable number of MPs, ‘secular’ Mulayam Singh Yadav and his party were not allowed to join the ruling regimes of UPAI and UPAII. The grand entry of an uninvited Amar Singh along with late CPM leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet in a UPA meeting yielded no result.

As recent as the last Bihar assembly elections, with the impossible alliance of Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar becoming formidable, Mulayam betrayed the ‘mahagathbandan’ at the last instance, putting up his candidates in Bihar where he had no base, so as to benefit Modi and BJP. That most of his candidates lost their deposit, and that he created so much bad blood among the secular forces, seems to have not touched his ‘socialist and secular’ conscience at all. Besides, insiders say, he is eternally and mortally afraid of certain corruption cases being raked up against him and his family – and that is the reason he tails the BJP, compromising repeatedly.

The twist in the tale, in the final instance, is that this round and the coming rounds have been won by Akhilesh Yadav and his supporters, especially the legislators and young cadre, the family reconciliation is temporary and has no meaning because the pendulum of power paradigm will shift towards the son, Shivpal and Amar Singh have been neutralized while Azam Khan and Ramgopal Yadav have emerged stronger. Most crucially, Samajwadi Party under Akhilesh is on a high as far as electoral prospects are concerned.

Mulayam was hell-bent stopping an alliance with the RLD and Congress, something which Akhilesh openly wanted. Many saw the shadow of BJP behind Mulayam’s adamant position. Akhilesh has reportedly told reporters that with an alliance they will get 300 seats in the next elections. With an alliance, the SP will sweep western and eastern UP, according to current poll calculations. The BJP’s communal card is currently not working in either western or eastern UP. And, with demonetisation, and the farmers hit extremely hard, the ground is slipping from under Narendra Modi And Amit Shah’s feet in UP.

Truly, the Autumn of the Patriarch is no magic realism redux. It is the bitter realism of a party, which has to reinvent itself with a new language of modernity, secularism and ‘socialism’ in the current crisis stalking the country. UP, in many ways, will decide the future of the next Lok Sabha elections, with communal forces upping the ante. If the new forces in the party led by Akhilesh can stop the communal bandwagon in UP, as it happened in Bihar, it will mark the beginning of the downfall of Modi and Shah.

Akhilesh Yadav, as of now, seems to be in top form. In current circumstances, it seems, he is going to be batting not out, despite the bouncers thrown at him. For how long, we shall soon know.