Mulayam Singh Yadav is at it once again. The veteran socialist leader and Samajwadi Party supremo is all set to facilitate a merger of Quami Ekta Dal, a political party run, managed and sponsored by gangster-turned-politician and an MLA from Mau, Mukhtar Ansari. This may surprise Mulayam’s critics and fans alike.
It may appear that Mukhtar Ansari needed Mulayam to stay politically relevant and therefore bucked up the prospect of an eventual merger with SP. But it was Mulayam Singh who needed the mafiaso’s support more than him.
The reasons for Mulayam’s predilection for Ansari are not far to seek. Caste alignments play a crucial role in wins and defeats in elections. Mulayam’s support base in Uttar Pradesh is the Muslim-Yadav combination, just as Lalu Yadav’s is in Bihar. In the election year, Mulayam can ill-afford to disturb this combination, especially when main opposition BSP and BJP are eyeing the Lucknow throne more than ever before. The state has never sent any party back to power in two successive elections in over two decades – ever since the Mandir-Mandal politics re-shaped the contours of state and national politics.
Mulayam realises the political chess board on the ground may be spread out differently in 2017 UP state elections. The BSP has been SP’s arch rival and is gearing up to seek revenge upon its political opponent for its drubbing in 2012 Vidhan Sabha elections. But is the BJP and its polarizing politics which has the potential to upset SP’s prospects. Mulayam’s SP suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of BJP in UP in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP won 73 out of 80 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This did not augur well for Mulayam and his CM son, Akhilesh. And with the BJP in power at the Centre, Mulayam fears the empire may strike back in 2017.
With BJP set to milch its nationalist cow in the UP elections, Mulayam knows he has to act fast so as to offset chances of loss at the hustings. As a ruling party set to take on challengers, Samajwadi Party will not only have to give a semblance of a fight but also stay relevant and keep the party workers’ morale high.
Mulayam knows age is catching up with him. He also knows he has failed to iron out the differences within his own family and this does not augur well for the party. But as a never-say-die politician he would like to retire from active politics on a high note. Therefore, the crafty politician is all set to do what he does best – take political risks upfront. Even at the expense of embarrassing his son and UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav who has steadfastly opposed QED’s merger with SP in the past and even sacked his senior minister Balram Yadav two months ago for engineering such a merger. Obviously, Balram Yadav was acting out the advise of his seniors in the party like Shivpal Yadav, Mulayam’s brother. No prizes for guessing the move also had the blessing of the socialist patriarch.
Critics may pan Mulayam’s politics as unethical. But then those are trying to show the mirror to the SP may end up seeing their own images in it. All parties have been accused of courting criminals for furthering vote-bank politics, including BJP. Mulayam has been in the forefront of keeping that tradition alive. He realizes the move shall serve as the oil and grease to his now rickety bicycle.
(Views expressed by the author is his personal.)