The constant circling around the UPA government by Mulayam Singh Yadav, only to periodically lunge forward to attack and test the reaction, suggests that the wrestler in him often gets the better of the politician. People believe Mulayam’s antics are aimed at positioning himself for the top job in Delhi in 2014. But there are many reasons why political parties of a possible third front may not find it easy to hand over the leadership to him.
Although he may call the Congress a party of “cheats”, Mulayam tests our credulity when he says, “I have never betrayed anyone in my political life.” The list of his betrayals is long, beginning with machinations against his mentor Chaudhary Charan Singh, and then, the Chaudhary’s son, Ajit Singh. He dumped his socialist colleague Chandra Shekhar for V.P. Singh and ditched Singh later. He failed to stand by H.D. Deve Gowda when he was prime minister. He let Sonia Gandhi believe that he stood behind her when she went in April 1999 to Rashtrapati Bhavan claiming the support of 272 MPs to form a government, only to stab her in the back within hours. He had no qualms about betraying his Left allies on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. And after announcing a joint strategy for presidential elections with Mamata Banerjee, he left her high and dry. Stalwarts who were lured from the Congress, like Chandrajit Yadav, Shyam Lal Yadav and Balram Singh Yadav, were given nothing.
It also appears his political ground is slipping away in Uttar Pradesh, his home state, and that he’s aware of it. Why else would he chastise his son Akhilesh Yadav publicly for bad governance rather than have a fatherly chat at home? Governance in Uttar Pradesh is indeed in a mess. Power supply is good only in the VIP areas of Saifai, Kannauj, Badayun, Rae Bareli and Amethi. In other places, power cuts abound. Bureaucratic reshuffles are routine, with the usual allegations of corruption. The government refuses to ban cancerous gutka, despite a Supreme Court order; and it took six months to implement a high court order to remove two allegedly corrupt Noida officers. By the state government’s own admission, 33 communal clashes have taken place since Akhilesh Yadav took charge. Full-blown communal riots have taken place in Mathura, Bareilly and Faizabad and communal incidents have occurred in Ghaziabad, Meerut, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnore, Pratapgarh, Sambhal, Lucknow, Sitapur, Allahabad, Kushinagar, Bahraich, and Sant Ravidas Nagar.
The involvement of a cabinet minister, Raghuraj Pratap Singh, in the public gunning down of DySP Zia-ul-Haq has not endeared the government to Muslims. Despite the promise of releasing all Muslim youngsters involved in false cases, not one has been released and the promised 4.5 per cent reservation for Muslims is nowhere in sight.
The BSP’s Nasimuddin Siddiqi is being generous when he says there are four and a half chief ministers—a reference to Mulayam, Ram Gopal Yadav, Shivpal Singh and Azam Khan, and the half being Akhilesh himself. Others point to more power centres, such as Mulayam’s second wife, Sadhana Gupta, and his son by her, Prateek Yadav, the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Azamgarh, and nephews Dharmendra Yadav, Akshay Yadav and Aditya Yadav.
Also notable within the circle of family and friends are his daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav (MP from Kannauj), Sachin Yadav (Lok Sabha candidate from Farrukhabad, brother-in-law of Dharmendra Yadav), Raju Yadav (the MLA from Mainpuri, considered close to Ram Gopal Yadav) and Aseem Yadav (son of Mulayam’s teacher Uday Pratap). Yet political appointments have not extended beyond his own community of Kamariya Yadavs. The Ghausi Yadavs and the minor obcs who had rallied behind Mulayam feel excluded.
At a time when the spectacular mandate in Uttar Pradesh has been squandered away and his key constituencies are getting disenchanted, it is difficult to see why Mulayam would want early polls. To make a bid for the top job in Delhi, he needs to get at least 50 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats from the state. As of now, he may find it difficult to retain the 22 he has. It may be that Mulayam’s feints and ducks are aimed only at keeping the CBI at bay in the disproportionate assets case and ensuring the flow of central largesse to Uttar Pradesh. Given the governance vacuum in the state, the weather vane of an early election is more likely turning towards Mayawati rather than Mulayam.