Lucknow: Politics over Uttar Pradesh’s ‘missing taps’ has put former chief minister and national president of Samajwadi Party (SP) Akhilesh Yadav on the back foot as he struggles to protect ‘Brand Akhilesh’ ahead of the 2019 elections.
The row over the alleged damage caused to the bungalow vacated by the former chief minister has provided political ammunition to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
By demolishing ‘Brand Akhilesh’, the saffron party aims to create fissures in the opposition unity.
For the party, the political narrative has shifted seamlessly from the erstwhile ‘Daulat ki Beti’ (in reference to former chief minister Mayawati) to labelling Yadav ‘Toti Chor’ or tap thief.
An administrative issue between the government’s department of state property and the former chief minister has now escalated into a full-fledged political war between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party where Yadav seems to be getting no support from his allies such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Congress or the Left.
Talking about the BJP’s strategy, state general secretary and MLC Vijay Bahadur Pathak said, “Yadav has no answers to charges of theft from the bungalow he was allocated. Till the time he answers, we will continue to question.”
The fact that the BJP and the state government chose to go soft on Mayawati when she vacated her bungalow compared to the aggressive stand against Yadav is also a well thought out strategy.
The BSP chief, while vacating her bungalow, put the government in a fix by declaring that the property concerned was also a memorial for Dalit leader and party founder Kanshi Ram.
Though the government now has the keys to the property, it still carries the board of the ‘Kanshi Ram Memorial Vishram Sthal’.
Sources said for the time being, the government had decided to maintain the status quo.
The property will not be allocated as a residence and security personnel have been deployed at the site to prevent any damage to the memorial.
Political observers feel this has been a win-win situation for the BJP. While it may help the party create fissures in the opposition unity by discrediting a senior opposition leader, silence on Mayawati would also reflect concern for the strong Dalit vote bank.
Prashant Trivedi, assistant professor at the Lucknow-based Giri Institute of Development Studies said, “The BJP government has drawn a lot of criticism on the issue of governance and has also faced humiliation in bypolls. In such a scenario, targeting a key opposition leader can be both a diversionary tactic as well as an effort to break opposition unity.”
He added, “It’s politically prudent for the BJP to not open a joint front against both Akhilesh and Mayawati at the same time.”
Unlike his predecessor, Yadav has, so far, been unable to build a strong counter to the BJP’s onslaught.
This was evident during his press conference on Wednesday when brandishing bathroom taps in his hand, he accused the BJP of acting out of hate and anger after it was defeated in the bypolls.
Further, he claimed that he took only those fittings that he installed using his own money.
Yadav’s defence, however, backfired as Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Siddharth Nath Singh called it a proof of the SP leader’s ill-gotten wealth.
Singh said, “If he accepts that he spent from his pocket on the government bungalow, then it’s a fit case for the Income Tax department to probe the sources of such huge expenditure.”