Finally, the Samajwadi Party-Quami Ekta Dal
merger is off – after Akhilesh Yadav, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister and the
SP’s state president made his anger public today. He said he would always
oppose entry of people like Mukhtar Ansari into the SP. He said that he had no
involvement in this decision and he would always speak his mind wherever
On June 21, the Quami Ekta Dal (QED), the
political party founded by Mukhtar Ansari, a notorious gangster and
criminal-turned-politician who is presently lodged in jail, merged with the SP
– in spite of the stiff opposition from Akhilesh Yadav. The merger was
obviously to exploit Mukhtar Ansari’s appeal among the sections of Muslim
voters who see him as some ‘Robin Hood’ figure.
So displeased was Akhilesh with the merger
that he sacked his senior minister Balram Yadav, the mediator behind the merger
deal, and cancelled his all official engagements of the day. Later, Shivpal who
is said to have masterminded the deal along with Amar Singh, another recent SP
re-inductee into the party, tried to pacify Akhilesh by saying that the deal
had blessings of Mulayam. Balram Yadav, too, reiterated this claim. But it
Akhilesh Yadav, the 42 year old
chief-minister of Uttar Pradesh from the SP, is a sulking man even though he
prevailed today – amid the flurry of inductions into the party that Akhilesh is
not comfortable with.
And he is facing a resurgent Shivpal Yadav,
Akhilesh’s uncle and a senior UP minister, who is seen being not on good terms
with Akhilesh ever since Mulayam promoted his son Akhilesh instead of him as
the UP chief-ministerial face in 2011. He looks calling the shots in the party
now – even if the QED merger deal has been called off.
Huge anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh
Yadav government and a rock-bottom law and order scenario in the state are
giving the SP nightmares on how to solve the 2017 assembly polls riddle. Four years ago, when Uttar Pradesh had voted
Akhilesh Yadav in, he seemed to have a force of his own – a young face, fresh energy, a
corruption-free vision – that effectively spoke to the voters – giving the SP
228 assembly seats in a House of 403. People saw that there was a person in the
SP who could wash the taint of SP being a political party harbouring criminals.
After four years of Akhilesh Yadav’s in the
Lucknow secretariat, all those hopes have gone. The force looks dissipated.
Though there have been no allegations of individual corruption on Akhilesh, no
one can deny that UP has parallel power centres run by Mulayam Singh Yadav,
Shivpal Yadav and Azam khan – and Akhilesh is not in control. They all behave
as if they are the chief ministers of the state.
It seems the top brass of the SP doesn’t
believe anymore in the development credentials of the Akhilesh Yadav government
to bring home the electoral victory when the state goes to polls the next year.
And the top brass has its own way of doing politics – the old SP way – setting
and basing everything on caste equations.
‘THEIR’ PRIORITIES RIGHT
So, the SP is trying to check the split in
the OBC votes, an SP forte, in case of any possible threat presented by another
influential OBC leader, Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister and his party
JD(U) coupled with the BJP’s drive to rally the OBC votes by quoting Narendra
Modi’s OBC credentials and by appointing an OBC, Keshav Prasad Maurya, as the
And the SP is trying to ensure that the
Muslim voters remain loyal to it – the base of voters that, with the OBC votes,
gave the SP a thumping victory in the 2012 Assembly polls.
Mukhtar Ansari is a minority face. The
QED’s merger tells how desperate the SP is to attract the Muslim votes. There
is a clear chance that Muslims will vote for Mayawati this time as they had
done in 2007 that had given Mayawati a clear majority. The Muzaffarnagar riots,
its aftermath and the Dadri lynching incidents have eroded the credibility base
of the SP among the Muslims.
The SP top brass including Mulayam wants to
win it back at any cost – even if it means antagonising Akhilesh. The failed QED
merger with the SP to exploit Mukhtar Ansari’s appeal among the Muslim voters is
just an example.
When seen in the context of mergers and
inductions in the party in the recent months, it tells us that the SP is not
convinced with the winnability of Akhilesh.
The first clear indication to which way the
wind was going to blow in the SP came in April 2016 when Mulayam made Shivpal
incharge of the SP’s UP unit, a position that effectively makes him the
election incharge for the next polls. The responsibility was given to Akhilesh
in 2012. Though the reports said today that Akhilesh would look after the
upcoming elections, there was no official word about it.
Next month, in May 2016, Amar Singh, an old
SP hand and a Mulayam favourite, who was expelled from the party, and a person
whom Akhilesh doesn’t like, was taken back in the SP fold. Amar Singh is seen
as a master deal-broker in the political circles. The same month, another
influential OBC leader and an old SP hand, Beni Prasad Verma, Mulayam’s
friend-turned-foe, was re-inducted into the party after nine years. Both Amar
Singh and Beni Prasad Verma are now Rajya Sabha members from the SP.
Projections, surveys and political analyses
have started predicting a lead to Mayawati’s BSP. In an opinion poll in March
2016, she was shown winning 185 seats in the 403 members UP assembly along with
31% vote share, while the SP was shown reduced to just 80 seats with 23% votes.
The projection showed the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the second
largest party with 120 seats and 24% votes.
Besides, Mayawati has also been cosying up
with the Congress. Her decision to support Harish Rawat in the court monitored
trust vote in the Uttarakhand assembly was a clear signal to the Muslim voters
that she is against the BJP.
Her projected 31% vote share would make a
formidable alliance when taken together with the Congress’s 12% that it got in
the 2012 UP assembly polls.
That is more than enough for the party to sail
through given the fact that the BJP swept UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a
42% vote share. The BJP along with its ally Apna Dal won 73 out of 80 UP Lok
Sabha seats then.
Then there is another pillar of the BSP’s
social engineering – the Brahmin votebank. Brahmins constitute around 13% of
voters in the state and were an important factor in ensuring the BSP’s emphatic
victory in the 2007 UP assembly polls.
TO THE OLD SP SCHOOL
As a result, the party leadership, sans
Akhilesh Yadav, has probably decided that it is now the tried and tasted way of
identity politics ahead – an identity politics in UP that is riddled with caste
and community equations that goes to any extent to appease voters – even if it
means marching with dreaded gangsters like Mukhtar Ansari.
Before the 2012 assembly polls, the old
monks of the SP top brass led by the SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav were all
prepared to induct DP Yadav, a criminal-turned politician, into the party. But
Akhilesh put his foot down declaring that since DP Yadav was a criminal, there
was no place for him in his party.
If DP Yadav is a criminal whom Akhilesh
Yadav cannot see in his party, Mukhtar Ansari is synonymous with terror. And
even though Mukhtar’s brother Afzal Ansari said that the QED had nothing to do
with Mukhtar, who is in jail in a murder case, no one was going to take it.
In and out of BSP, Mukhtar Ansari formed
his own political outfit QED in 2010 after he was ousted from the BSP. He had
almost won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi. BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi
could win only with a thin margin of 17000 votes in the last rounds of the
counting. He won the 2012 UP assembly polls from the Mau constituency. And this
all in spite of him being a dreaded criminal.
IS THE PRIORITY
To remain in the race and to maintain its
winnability prospects, the SP is trying to consolidate its traditional base of
voters – OBCs and Muslims – and the way to do that is – ‘making deals and
poaching personalities’ – no matter what.
And all these have blessings of Mulayam
Singh Yadav – even if Akhilesh doesn’t like Mukhtar Ansari or Amar Singh. Beni
Prasad Verma and Mukhtar Ansari are influential caste leaders and they can
effectively swing votes. And Amar Singh is a strategic taskmaster expert in
The SP needs such faces more than ever as it
seems Akhilesh Yadav is no more a face for them who alone can win the next
assembly polls for the party.