Akhilesh Needs to Shed Yadav-Only Image for Shot at Lucknow Throne in 2022, His Father Knows Best
Samajwadi Party in UP has so glaringly failed to homogenise all other backward castes that today it is considered just the party of Yadavs.
File photo of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav with father and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Mahatma Gandhi once asked socialist leader Dr Ram Manohar Lohia if he believed a leader’s life could be compartmentalised into public and private life. When Dr Lohia said that it’s not possible to separate the two, Gandhi asked that if such is the case, how could he justify smoking cigarettes in a country like India.
The great man who advocated and lived a simple, frugal life implied that in a country with rampant poverty and starvation, smoking was a luxury. Gandhi further educated Dr Lohia that his habit of smoking was directly related to socialism because a socialist leader should not only look like a common man, but also lead the life of a common man. As an after-effect of the conversation, Dr Lohia quit smoking two months later.
Earlier this week, Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot spent a night at a farmer’s hut in Kachela village of Jalor district. Next morning, Pilot held a janata darbar (public meeting) for which people thronged from the neighbouring villages as well. He heard their problems and assured them of suitable action. The next election in Rajasthan is at least four years away; why is Pilot then making such efforts when there is no political test in the near future?
The Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh is on a decline. The party has not only diverted from the core principles of socialism, but seems to have forgotten even the basics. The two above-mentioned incidents, perhaps, are enough to suggest causes of ailments of this party – Lohiaites forgetting Lohia and being disconnected from people.
The recent drubbing in Lok Sabha elections, despite an alliance with arch-rival BSP, speaks volumes about the embarrassing position in which the SP lies today. If it has to challenge the BJP in 2022 assembly elections, the party needs to do some very serious introspection.
Politics is a multifaceted, complex phenomenon with loyalties and priorities, interests and alliances being in a constant state of flux. But amid all this perplexity and attrition, fact remains that Samajwadi Party in UP has so glaringly failed to homogenise all other backward castes that today it is considered just the party of Yadavs. SP president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has to change this.
It will be a mistake to presume that identity politics has weakened in the state and development-oriented politics will be the norm. Nothing can be far from the truth. The politics in UP is heavily divided on caste lines and any leader who thinks otherwise should do so at his own peril. Caste may not be the only factor, but is certainly the most important factor when it comes to voting here (out of caste, religion, welfarism, money spent, corruption, development).
Thus, the most important task for Akhilesh before the assembly polls is to break this perception of SP being a Yadav-only party. He has to wean away other backward castes from the BJP and attract as many upper castes as possible and build a bigger, better and truly democratic coalition of castes within the party.
The answer as to how these castes can be brought back into the SP fold lies in the very reasons for which they migrated from it in the first place. And so, social and economic issues leading to empowerment of the marginalised and backward castes should be topmost on its agenda.
Secondly, there is no alternative to a leader’s direct connect with his people. It is a distressing reality today that barring a few, Samajwadi Party and its leaders have lost connection with their people. It is time to go back and camp in the hinterlands. It is time for them to get out of the comforts of their air conditioners and knock the doors across villages and towns, have dialogues with the people, learn about their problems and aspirations first-hand.
The party should remain on the lookout for a mass movement and cease any opportunity that will gravitate people towards it. At the same time, since no party can sustain itself on a continuous dose of struggle, it should also come up with creative programmes — social and entertainment evenings to increase solidarity among its cadre and people.
Thirdly, Akhilesh and the top leadership of the party should set an example of simplicity and minimalism in personal life. They are to be followed by the party leaders at the district and block-level and any sign of ostentation and richness has to be met with strict action.
Today, luxury cars, branded shoes, high-end mobiles and gold bracelets/chains have come to symbolise the lifestyle of the young and brash new crop of SP leaders in the district. This must change immediately. Symbolism is very important in democracy. The party should take a leaf out of its Nizamabad MLA (Azamgarh) Alam Badi’s book; he lives such a Spartan life that even Anna Hazare looks rich in comparison.
Fourthly, the party organisation (sangthan) needs an instant overhaul. Akhilesh cannot and should not carry on with such colossal incompetence where a state-level party functionary fails to win even his own booth. Where is the accountability? The existing organisation should be dismantled, while capable and committed people with proven track records should be given new roles that are defined with specific targets for 2022. A right mix of experience and youth should also be fused to get the desire results.
Fifthly, SP has to come out with an alternative vision for the development of the state. Distributing laptops may be just fine, but what UP need is an IT revolution. What efforts have been made to develop the state? Where are the jobs? How much efforts are being made to bring in new industries? Jobs are the highest benchmark for any successful government.
How many jobs did any UP government, whether it be BSP, SP or BJP government, generate in the private sector? Farmers continue to be in distress and waiving off loans is a short-term solution because what farming sector really needs are big reforms. Akhilesh will have to sit with expert economists to think different and beyond the obvious.
A week is a long time in politics, but without going into the political context in which the former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson made the remark, it is safe to say that in today’s Modi-Shah era BJP, no matter how much the time, it never seems enough to give it a good fight. Two-and-half-years may just be enough for Akhilesh to reclaim the throne of Lucknow, but he has to hit the ground running and without waiting any further.
And if ever he is in any predicament, he should seek advice from one person who has not only walked the talk in the hinterlands of UP but is considered the master of political manoeuvres and drills – an old war horse who understands nuances of politics far better than any — his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.
(Author is a freelance writer. Views expressed are personal.)
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