Ring out the old, ring in the new: Mulayam is going, it is advantage Akhilesh
The immediate collateral victim of the fast-paced political developments in Uttar Pradesh is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The television space he would have hogged on New Year's Eve with his latest inventive take on demonetisation will rightfully go to the soap opera, featuring Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son, Akhilesh Yadav.
The main protagonist of the political drama in UP, Akhilesh, had top billing on Friday evening, when he was expelled from the Samajwadi Party, and he retained that position on Saturday morning when his father sought a compromise with him.
Akhilesh has emerged stronger than before because we Indians love melodrama - we love martyrs as well as challengers. The cause sometimes doesn't matter that much. As a wag pointed out, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged, many in India skipped lunch mourning the event.
Akhilesh's advantage is that he has a clean image while his father is seen as a devious politician of the Old School who cannot be trusted. The voters will reward Akhilesh amply for the courage he has displayed.
His victory against the ancient regime was won by a dramatic show of strength. Nearly 190 MLAs of the party turned up at Akhilesh's residence while only 17 went to a parallel meeting called by his father and the national president of the party.
Yet a compromise with the Old Order, even if Akhilesh gets his way with the party, may turn into a pyrrhic victory. For, Akhilesh is perhaps stronger electorally without the encumbrance of his father and uncle, Shivpal Yadav.
The villain of the Yadav family drama has been wrongly identified in the media as Mulayam Singh's brother Shivpal Yadav. Those who know the Yadav family well say that the real villains in the current drama are Mulayam's cousin Ramgopal Yadav and the Rajput interloper into the OBC party, Amar Singh - both rootless wonders in electoral politics whose only concern is to survive.
Ramgopal Yadav is the one who allegedly sabotaged the 'Mahagathbandhan' (Grand Alliance) in the Bihar elections. After the names of his next of kin were said to have figured in the corruption case against NOIDA Chief Engineer Yadav Singh, many allege Ramgopal sought a meeting with a BJP bigwig.
It was at his behest, it is said, that Ramgopal advised Mulayam Singh Yadav to withdraw from the Bihar alliance. Mulayam Singh was told by him that the SP had hardly any presence in Bihar and there was no gain to be had by getting into an alliance. The party drew a blank where it fielded a few candidates.
"Ramgopal Yadav is the main advisor of the young Yadav scion and responsible for deepening differences between father and son. He is doing this to protect his own presence in politics and retain the enormous powers he has, without contesting an election," said Ashok Yadav, a UP politician and a long-term bête noir of Mulayam Singh Yadav.
It is the same with Amar Singh who has wormed his way back into the good books of Mulayam Singh Yadav. "Amar Singh reminds him that the BJP could act against him in the ongoing disproportionate assets cases and Mulayam Singh dreads being harassed by the Modi government in his dotage. Amar Singh also operates through Shivpal Yadav and Mulayam Singh's second wife, Sadhana Gupta," Ashok Yadav said.
After being re-inducted into the SP, Amar Singh is believed to have had several meetings with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, also once-CM of UP.
The chicanery of Ramgopal Yadav and Amar Singh, and statement of UP Governor Ram Naik, a former BJP leader, that he was keeping a watch on the situation, casts the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the wolf at the door in the ongoing drama.
However, the fracas in the Samajwadi Party is unlikely to help the BJP directly. The BJP does not seek the support of the Yadavs. They also do not see the BJP as their party. The BJP has concentrated on non-Yadav OBCs. Similarly the Muslims, who support the Samajwadi Party (SP), are not eager to vote for the BJP nor does the BJP actively woo them for support. So, voters in these two communities will not move in any significant manner to the BJP, irrespective of what happens in the SP.
In fact, the BJP's prospects in UP have been impacted adversely by demonetisation. Its core constituency of traders, or baniyas, is alienated because their business has shrunk. Baniya is not only a caste but also a mental outlook attached to an occupation which crosses caste boundaries. So the electoral damage to the BJP is not limited to traders as a caste alone.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is also unlikely to benefit by a split in the Muslim vote as suggested by some political observers. The upper castes amongst Muslims - the Sheikhs, Sayeds and Pathans - are not with the BSP.
Mayawati has, by and large, wooed the backward or pasmanda Muslims. The views of the upper caste Muslims exercise considerable influence on others in the community and they tend to go with the SP or, to a lesser extent with the Congress.
Who then does the emerging scenario in UP benefit?
An alliance with the Congress will become a win-win situation for both Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh. The Congress can look forward to green shoots emerging in UP. Akhilesh, on the other hand, can emerge as a national leader capable of shaping the contours of future politics.
The alliance in UP can also be joined by yet another politician from the next generation, Jayant Choudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), with a base in Western UP. It is also possible that the expanding alliance could include Janata Dal (United), although its presence would be largely symbolic.
The BJP will remain lumbered by the disadvantage it suffers from demonetisation - gaining little from SP's shenanigans but losing a lot because of its own. The BSP too will perhaps do no more than retain its own support base.
If Akhilesh stands his ground, it is clear that the political cards would have to be dealt all over again in UP. And it will be advantage non-BJP parties.
These alliances could shape the future of Indian politics in the coming days and months.