After having exposed himself as a leader of little consequence in today’s Uttar Pradesh politics, Shivpal Yadav, Samajwadi Party leader and brother of party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, is desperate to prove his relevance. His announcement of a new ‘Samajwadi Secular Front’ to rally those who feel neglected in the Akhilesh Yadav-led party is a product of frustration and can hardly be expected to cut much ice.
That the morcha is tilted towards the BJP and is inspired by the wily but spent force Amar Singh who was once a notable wheeler-dealer does little credit to the morcha which is avowedly an attempt to rally together forces that are feeling neglected by the rise of Akhilesh Yadav.
Whether the BJP considers Shivpal a useful man to have on board in an alliance is, however, a doubtful proposition considering that some BJP leaders who were supposed to meet him chose to stay away at the last minute if some reports are to be believed.
Amar Singh tried all his bluff and bluster to win over Akhilesh but his stratagems did not work with him, in the wake of Akhilesh’s strategic alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for the next Lok Sabha elections. Having proved the efficacy of the alliance with BSP chief Mayawati by trouncing the BJP in byelections, Akhilesh is riding high. He is not prepared to heed the advice of either his father, Mulayam or his uncle, Shivpal.
At one time, Mulayam held total sway within the party but now it is Akhilesh who calls the shots and his father is only a bystander rendered irrelevant by circumstances.
The BJP is still keen on enlisting Amar Singh’s support because of his go-getting disposition which comes in handy, but Shivpal’s value is limited. Yet, together they could create some ripples in the Lok Sabha elections which are only a few months away.
What is crucial for the Samajwadi Party is that its ‘mahagathbandhan’ with the BSP must go through with or without the Congress.
By inviting those who have been neglected within the SP to rally together, Shivpal has, in a sense, signalled his own defeat vis-a-vis Akhilesh. However, if for some reason the alliance with Mayawati were to fall by the wayside, the situation could change at least partially for Shivpal.
Mulayam, meanwhile, has, for all the rebuffs by Akhilesh, not reached breaking point with his son. He is still hoping that someday his clout would return. He puts up a show of solidarity with Shivpal while afraid of wounding Akhilesh for whose rise he relishes taking credit.
Before launching the morcha, Shivpal said he was still waiting for an invitation from Akhilesh to give him work but the wait has gone on for one-and-half years. The body language of Shivpal is not of a combatant but of a supplicant. For Mulayam, such defeatist attitude is passé. Yet, a Mulayam’s much-touted guile is not getting him anywhere.
The Mulayam-Shivpal and Akhilesh-Ram Gopal Varma camps in the Samajwadi Party fought a bitter battle in the Election Commission claiming the mantle for the original SP. But the issue was settled when the EC ruled in Akhilesh’s favour.
On top of it came the victories in bypolls in Phulpur, Gorakhpur and Kairana Lok Sabha seats for Akhilesh with the help from Mayawati’s BSP and it seemed all was lost for Mulayam-Shivpal.
For the BJP, the stakes are high in UP Lok Sabha polls because of the huge tally of the saffronites in the 2014 elections, winning 71 of the 80 seats with two more for its allies. The party would do everything to prevent a strong alliance between the SP and the BSP but the odds seem stacked against it.