Aditi Phadnis: The Muslim-Yadav card
Mulayam Singh is desperately trying to revive the old alliance
Aditi Phadnis / New Delhi July 24, 2010, 0:05 IST
Jijeevisha is a Hindi word describing the will to live. It is much in
use in Uttar Pradesh (UP) in the context of the Samajwadi Party (SP)
chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The past few months haven't been kind to Yadav. He thought his party
was sinking because of Amar Singh, his former general secretary. But
although he dropped Singh, the condition of the SP has not improved.
In the last electoral test, the by-election for the Domariaganj
assembly seat in June, the SP was No. 4. To Yadav's discomfiture — and
that of his colleagues who had been saying that only when Singh was
thrown out would SP's fortunes improve — an unknown party, the Peace
Party, supported by Singh, came third.
Earlier this week, Yadav apologised to the Muslims for having tied up
with Kalyan Singh. This has softened the Muslims towards him but has
deeply angered the Lodhs, the caste that Kalyan Singh represents. The
feeling among the Lodhs is: He can't use us and throw us away. Kalyan
Singh contested the 2007 assembly elections as an independent
candidate but was supported by the SP. His son Rajvir lost the
election from home turf Dibai by 1.5 lakh votes to the Bahujan Samaj
Party (BSP). In 2009, Rajvir formally joined the SP. But he left the
party 11 months later. When Yadav began talking as if his biggest
mistake was to have tied up with Kalyan Singh, it was the Muslims he
was speaking to. But the Lodhs were listening as well. The revenge
will not take long coming. It won't be dramatic but it will decimate
the SP vote bank — in assembly constituencies, 3,000 to 5,000 votes
can represent the gap between victory and defeat. And if the Lodhs
turn away from the SP in every constituency, well, the SP is going to
face serious haemorrhage.
The short point is that unless Yadav can get his act together in UP,
small challengers like the Peace Party and Kalyan Singh could spell
devastation for his plans of challenging Mayawati.
The Peace Party of India (PPI) was started by bureaucrat — he was
selected for the allied services and worked as a customs officer — Dr
Mohammad Ayub, who is actually a trained surgeon. He gave up his
government job and started a hospital in his hometown Gorakhpur. The
PPI was launched in 2008, not necessarily as a party for Muslims, but
for professionals. Chartered accountants, doctors and lawyers are its
members. The party has units in 35 districts in UP but is important
only in eastern UP. In Domariaganj, it fielded a Brahmin. So you could
possibly call it a very small, professionals' version of the BSP in
its "sarvajan samaaj" mode.
The PPI is going to nibble away at Congress and SP votes, but it is
the SP that is most worried. Hence Yadav's "apology" and his plans to
launch Azam Khan as the next SP star. Azam Khan was deposed by
Jayaprada from Rampur in the run-up to the 2009 general election and
left the party. He has returned and is likely to get a hero's welcome.
This will be another move to placate the Muslims. A meeting of the
Ulema Council (the body of clerics from Azamgarh, formed after the
Batla House encounter in 2008, which contested the 2009 elections) has
also been sought by Yadav and could endorse him.
The thing is, UP is quite content with Mayawati. Sure there is
corruption, but it isn't of the scale that prevailed during the Yadav
regime when even the water carrier in the SP was extorting.
Considerable development is taking place in villages, especially for
the Dalit community. While Mayawati has denied naming her brother
Anand as her political heir, it is quite clear that he is the
single-point source of advice when it comes to money matters. But
Mayawati retains the veto power, something Yadav had lost towards the
end of his last tenure — although he was warned about the activities
of his brothers and cousins, he did not act. So, while there is no
wave in Mayawati's favour, levels of disapproval are low.
But on the other hand, Yadav is the only street fighter now left in
UP. The Congress is too refined to oppose Mayawati (did you notice how
the Congress reacted to UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna's criticism of the
chief minister some months ago? It was as if Bahuguna had made an
indecent suggestion). The BJP is too old. That leaves only Yadav.
What Yadav is trying to do is to revive the Muslim-Yadav combine in UP
that served his colleague Lalu Prasad so well in Bihar for so long.
Such an alliance will give him leverage to get other castes on the
bandwagon too, although at this point, it looks difficult — he has
dispatched a colleague, Manoj Pande, to placate the Brahmins, but they
are now looking to the Congress.
There are reports that Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam's son, and Amar Singh
had a meeting in London recently to see if a patch-up was possible.
When discussions turned to financial matters, talks broke down. That
relationship might be hard to repair. But, at a time when everything
seems to be going against him, Mulayam Singh Yadav is not ready to
throw in the towel. Not yet.
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