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4-min read

How Akhilesh Yadav Won the Party, But Lost the State

Akhilesh Yadav’s nomination as the chief minister after an emphatic victory by Samajwadi Party in 2012 was somewhat surprising. No one expected patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav to let go off the reins of Lucknow just like that.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:March 12, 2017, 1:47 PM IST
How Akhilesh Yadav Won the Party, But Lost the State
File photo of outgoing Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Akhilesh Yadav’s nomination as the chief minister after an emphatic victory by Samajwadi Party in 2012 was somewhat surprising. No one expected patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav to let go off the reins of Lucknow just like that. A decision he later regretted.

Uttar Pradesh’s youngest chief minister ever went through a difficult four years, till he decided enough is enough. He rebelled against the power centres that were forcing his hand: Uncle Shivpal Yadav, step mother Sadhna Yadav, Amar Singh, even his own father Mulayam.

Political opponents had referred to SP government as having ‘Four and a half Chief ministers': the CMs being Mulayam singh, Shivpal, Uncle Ram Gopal, and party heavy weight Azam Khan. The Half CM was Akhilesh himself.

‎But then as this writer recalls, the unease about hands being tied up, was often evident in Akhilesh's words. Slowly this clash for complete hold of power was also evident in actions and decisions often taken by the Young CM.

As early as 2013, Akhilesh’s discomfort to several decisions of the party and top leaders was evident. He began to lock horns with his father and uncle over induction of tainted leaders like Pandit Singh or Raja Bhaiyya, and in the appointment of some top bureaucrats, including those in the CM's secretariat itself

However the watershed moment in Samajwadi party's internal power dynamics came in 2014 as the party was reduced to just 5 seats in Lok Sabha. Many including Mulauam and Shivpal put the blame entirely on Akhilesh for the poll debacle. Sources say a serious effort was also made by Shivpal to convince Mulayam in replacing Akhilesh as the CM in wake of the Lok Sabha polls.

It was then that Akhilesh decided enoughis enough. Political observers point out how his decisions became more and more independent.

While Akhilesh moved ahead charting out the strategy for crucial 2017 polls, trying to steer the party away from old notions of caste and the infamous tag of SP being hand-in-gloves with goons.

At the peak of the Samajwadi family war that erupted, Akhilesh sacked his own uncle Shivpal and many other MSY loyalists from his cabinet. He forced the party to call off the merger of Mukhtar Ansari's Qaumi Akta Dal with SP. From there on it was no looking back for Akhilesh.

Choices were given to all either fall in line behind the Chief Minister or get lost in oblivion. Dissent had no space. From just being a son to Neta ji, Akhilesh had arrived to be the ultimate Neta for the party, which his father had formed in early 90s. The climax came on January 2nd this year, when at a hurriedly conducted national convention, the party replaced Mulayam with Akhilesh as the new national president of the Samajwadi party.

With the likes of Amar Singh thrown out of the party and Shivpal sacked from post of state president, the coup against the old guards was near-complete. From then on, there was no more challenge, with leaders tall and small falling in line declaring faith in Akhilesh's leadership.

A a senior leader then reminded this writer of what Janeshwar Mishra, the late socialist icon had once said about Akhilesh. It was in year 2000 when‎ Akhilesh in his mid -20's was gearing up to enter the political arena as the SP candidate for Kannauj Loks Sabha by polls. The seat was being vacated by Mulayam. With charges of nepotism flying thick and hard, it was Janeshwar Mishra who had defended Akhilesh. Mishra had said: “It was not politics of nepotism but nepotism of struggle.”

‎As a Lok Sabha MP in 2000, Akhilesh more or less remained out of the scene in Lucknow for more than a decade. It was only since 2011 when the party was fighting it out on streets in Uttar Pradesh against the Mayawati rule that Akhilesh slowly gained prominence. The period since then had definitely been of a son rise for him.

Until 2017 when under Akhilesh the party suffered its worst electoral drubbing ever in Uttar Pradesh. And suddenly, his political acumen, spirit of struggle and intention to redefine the narrative of the party ‎is under serious question. With Mulayam himself blaming Akhilesh's ‘arrogance' as the reason for defeat, the young leader now cuts a sorry figure. Rebellion against him from within the party is bound to happen and first salvos have already been fired

So can Tipu – his childhood nick name – really look forward to be Sultan again?. Well a lot will depend upon how he fights his opponents in the party, some being from his own family to begin with. Mulayam is known for turning crisis into opportunity. Does the son have it in him to do that? Watch this space.

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| Edited by: Mirza Arif Beg
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