In post-Mulayam era, SP sheds ‘anti-Congress tag’ to pursue national ambition
Now a constituent of the Congress-led India Alliance, the Samajwadi Party helmed by Akhilesh Yadav faces the challenge of trying to overcome the domination of the Bharatiya Janata Party
LUCKNOW From being a largely ‘anti-Congress party’ in the 1990s to becoming a constituent of the Congress-led India Alliance, the Samajwadi Party helmed by Akhilesh Yadav now has come a long way, but faces a similar challenge – that of trying to overcome the domination of the ruling party (Bharatiya Janata Party), a year after party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s demise.
Just as the Congress was considered largely invincible then, the BJP somewhat has the same status now in Uttar Pradesh.
Mulayam had demolished the Congress’ domination in Uttar Pradesh by playing regional/caste card and unseated the BJP in 1993 while it was trying to rise in the state in the backdrop of the Ram Temple movement.
He passed away on October 10 last year at the age of 82. Incidentally, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder Kanshi Ram passed away on October 9, 2006. Before the SP pays a statewide tribute to Mulayam on Tuesday, it paid tribute to Kanshi Ram on Monday.
Mulayam Singh Yadav was instrumental in making Kanshi Ram win his first Lok Sabha election by giving him the Etawah LS seat to contest in 1991. The SP and the BSP then entered into a pre-poll alliance in 1993 UP assembly polls. The SP contested 256 seats and won 109, and the BSP contested 164 seats and won 67. With Dalit, OBC and Muslim voters supporting the coalition, the two parties managed to keep the BJP out in the hung Assembly, even though the BJP had emerged as the single- largest party with 177 seats. Mulayam became the chief minister.
Akhilesh Yadav became the party’s president in January 2017, while he was the chief minister of UP. Sensing the BJP’s growing strength in the state, the SP chief tied up with the Congress. The alliance failed, and the BJP came to power. And since Akhilesh took over the reins of the party, he is yet to taste success against the BJP - the SP could not win any major polls since 2017 irrespective of various alliance formulae Akhilesh applied.
“The real tribute by the SP will be to improve its performance in elections - from panchayat to parliament polls,” said Madhukar Jetley, a senior SP leader and its former MLC.
MULAYAM’S ANTI-ALLIANCE SENTIMENTS
Once Mulayam built and consolidated his party, he did not favour pre-poll alliances as he felt it would be detrimental to the rise of the SP. When Akhilesh tied up with the Congress in the 2017 polls, Mulayam (who then had become the chief patron of the SP) opposed the idea of alliance. When the tie-up failed, and the BJP came to power in UP for the first time with a full majority, Mulayam was quick to castigate Akhilesh on the alliance with the Congress.
In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when Akhilesh took a leaf out of Mulayam’s experiment of 1993 and allied with the BSP, Mulayam again expressed displeasure. This alliance too failed in its basic purpose. The BJP again formed the government at the centre. Akhilesh then vowed to keep the “big parties” out and tried a third formula -- allying only with small regional parties.
The SP allied with Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and Apna Dal (K), but failed yet again in 2022. Now, Akhilesh is trying a fourth formula -- India bloc -- the national alliance of opposition parties. How it pans out will be seen in the days to come.
REPLICATING MSY’S 1993 ARITHMETIC
Mulayam tried bringing OBCs, Dalits and Muslims together by joining hands with Kanshi Ram in 1993. The formula had no name then, but it worked and Mulayam became the chief minister for the second time. Akhilesh tried the same formula in 2019, by joining hands with Mayawati and trying to combine the three major castes-community groups that together account for 85% of UP’s population.
The SP replicated the same formula in the 2022 UP assembly polls. Though the SP was far from displacing the BJP, it drastically improved its tally from 47 in 2017 to 111. This time, Akhilesh gave this formula a name -- PDA (Pichhda, Dalit, and Alpsankhyak), adding the caste census demand to it --the demand that Mulayam also stood for.
MANDAL 1.0 AND MANDAL 2.0
Mulayam was the face of Mandal politics in UP when VP Singh initiated it at the centre. They won the Mandal vs Kamandal battle, that is OBC quota politics against BJP’s Hindutva. Now, Akhilesh is attempting the same with Mandal 2.0 in Uttar Pradesh while the India bloc is angling for it nationwide. Mandal 2.0 is about getting a caste census done for better implementation of reservation in the government sector.
TWO WISHES FULFILLED
While seeing the SP ruling UP again or the party being part of a government at the centre remained unfulfilled dreams of Mulayam, his two other dreams were fulfilled – that of Akhilesh being firmly in the saddle of the SP, which happened during his lifetime, and the family feud sorted out with Akhilesh and Shivpal Yadav back together again.
Akhilesh and Shivpal had a long-drawn political feud over the control of the party, which eventually saw the former becoming the SP president and Shivpal out of the party. Mulayam’s wish was fulfilled within months of his demise that too through his legacy--Mainpuri LS seat--that fell vacant on his demise. The Yadav family sought Shivpal’s cooperation for Mulayam’s daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav’s candidature for the seat. Shivpal agreed and helped Dimple win. The family was reunited.