Akhilesh Yadav is trying to break free from his father’s stranglehold over the party
Akhilesh Yadav is trying to break free from his father’s stranglehold over the party

The Samajwadi Party family crisis that has been hogging headlines for over four months now. Now the Election Commission has to decide who — the Mulayam Singh Yadav-Shivpal Yadav combo or the Akhilesh Yadav-Ram Gopal Yadav faction — is the original SP. More importantly, the EC will decide who gets to claim the poll symbol of SP, the humble cycle.

However, regardless of the verdict, the Akhilesh camp is ready with its plan for Assembly polls slated to begin on February 11, with or without the original SP or the cycle symbol, people close to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister have said

The Akhilesh camp was hoping for some kind of compromise in the last 48 hours. But Mulayam Singh Yadav didn’t betray any signs of rapprochement and questioned the bonafides of the documents submitted by Akhilesh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav to the Election Commission. This combined with Amar Singh’s presence in Sunday’s press conference — he stood behind Mulayam clutching his chair — has only helped push the Akhilesh camp deeper and deeper into the belief that Mulayam is not in a position to take decisions of his own. For proof they point out to the continuing inconsistencies in his media statements.

Another Akhilesh supporter alleged that the SP supremo was being forced to take public positions against his son and chief minister, which are causing a “permanent dent to the image of the party that cannot be undone or withdrawn”.

Sources in SP say that Akhilesh has repeated his demand that his father should let him continue as the party president only till the completion of the elections. Their biggest fear before ticket distribution is a scenario where Mulayam gets to continue as national president and appoints Amar Singh as the person authorised to sign the all-crucial Form B. Form A has the declaration from the National President deciding the signatory authority of Form B. Form B has the name of the candidate setup by the political party in election.

Last Saturday, Ram Gopal Yadav had submitted signed affidavits of 212 MLAs, 15 MPs and 56 MLCs to the Election Commission to show the Akhilesh camp’s numerical strength within the party. Mulayam, in a press conference on Sunday, alleged the signatures were forged, making it clear that he is in no mood to compromise.

Another source says that when Ram Gopal was expelled for the first time in October 2016, two party MPs had registered their protest with Mulayam. And without any further pressure, Mulayam reinducted his cousin into the party.

Mayawati can play a spoilsport for all the three major political parties
Mayawati can play a spoilsport for all the three major political parties

The whole fracas in the Samajwadi Party started with the removal of IAS officer Deepak Singhal as the state chief secretary in September 2016. Akhilesh had removed the officer who was a confidante of Shivpal Yadav, but now his supporters say more than the Chief Minister, it was indeed Mulayam who asked for the sacking of his chief secretary.

“You had asked me to appoint him, it’s just a matter of few months now as elections aren’t far. So let him continue, I have already given him a lot of work to do,” Akhilesh told his father, says this leader. But Mulayam stood his ground and Akhilesh had to follow his father’s diktat, he claims.

Akhilesh’s camp claims that Singhal then sought help from Amar Singh, who took him to meet Mulayam. The patriarch phoned his son in front of Singhal and Amar Singh, and asked for the officer’s reinstatement. Apparently, Akhilesh revolted saying he can’t take such important decisions of appointments on his whims and fancies. “These are important calls with ramifications in governance and administration and hence Akhilesh had to assert his authority,” this SP leader recounts.

Mayawati can play a spoilsport for all the three major political parties
Mayawati can play a spoilsport for all the three major political parties

Meanwhile, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had begun preparing the list of its candidates soon after the 2014 general elections. The party had also announced the names of most of its candidates some time ago; these candidates are already active in their respective constituencies.

Mayawati categorised her party’s candidates on the basis of caste and religious identity by clearly stating her social engineering strategy. In a press conference, she stated that out of the 403 assembly seats, the SC candidates, Muslim community, OBCs and savarna candidates have been allotted 87, 97, 106 and 113 seats respectively. An analysis of her strategy reveals that the BSP has given the most number of tickets to Muslim candidates, compared to the other parties. During the 2012 elections, the BSP had given tickets to only 85 Muslim candidates. This time the number has increased by 12. This provides a clear picture: The Dalit-Muslim alliance forms the base of Mayawati’s social engineering strategy in the forthcoming elections. Though there are 85 reserved seats for the Dalits in UP, they also have been given two more tickets in the current elections. The BSP has faith in its Dalit base, with which it wants to associate the votes of the Muslim groups.

The BSP has given tickets to 106 OBC castes, while in the 2012 elections it had given tickets to 113 OBC candidates. This time the tickets to savarna candidates have been reduced to 113 from 117 tickets in 2012. The data shows that the party has increased the tickets only of the Muslim candidates and that there has been a reduction in the tickets to other social groups.

In 2012, the BSP gave tickets to 74 Brahmin candidates, illustrating its faith in the social engineering strategy of a Dalit-Brahmin alliance. The fact that the number of Brahmin candidates in the upcoming elections has been reduced to 66 clearly shows that Mayawati is now focusing on the Dalit-Muslim alliance. In addition, during her numerous rallies and meetings, Mayawati has also appealed to Muslim groups to vote in favour of the BSP.

The BSP holds the view that the creation of a sarvajan society can be made possible only by providing political participation to all its castes. When Mayawati and the BSP talk about society, it seems like a confederation of castes. In fact, she adds “society” as a suffix to all the caste names, such as Brahmin society, Dalit society etc. It is evident that Indian society is divided on caste and religious lines. We just have to watch how the BSP and other parties respond to the recently passed verdict of the Supreme Court on not using caste and religion to garner votes during elections.

Kanshi Ram was of the view that casteism can be eradicated from society only when people make use of their caste. Mayawati, influenced by his ideology, walked on the path set by Kanshi Ram. She wants to prove that the BSP is not merely a party of the Dalits. It is interested in providing political rights and representation to all castes. Mayawati fears that if the BSP is portrayed as an exclusively Dalit party, she might lose the votes of other castes.

While declaring the list of its candidates for the 2017 assembly elections, Mayawati said, once again, that the BSP is a sarvajan party and not a caste-based outfit. Its antagonists accuse it of being casteist so that the groups other than Dalits do not associate with it. We have to see how much success Mayawati attains in her strategy of forging a Dalit-Muslim alliance.

Dalits and Muslims are associated with the BSP, but it will benefit the party if it can also attract Backward and savarna votes. The next two months will decide the form of this social and caste-based polarisation. The days to come will prove how successful Mayawati has been in her social engineering policy.