The Samajwadi Party, under the leadership of Mulayam Singh Yadav, was powerless in Uttar Pradesh for from 1995 to 2003. But during this period, there were no desertions and all prominent leaders chose to rally behind Mulayam. But what has happened now is that the party which has been out of power for just over two years now is seeing a mass exit of its leaders? Has Akhilesh Yadav failed as a leader? Three Rajya Sabha members of the party have resigned from the House and are set to join the BJP soon. More could follow suit.
Is the Socialism dream and the Socialist movement a lost cause in India now? The age-old dream, based on the principles of leader Ram Manohar Lohia 26 years ago on October 4, 1992, was taken forward by Mulayam Singh Yadav, who will turn 80 in some months now. In 2012, Mulayam handed over the reins of the party to his son Akhilesh Yadav, paving the way for him to become the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. But since then, the party has been on a downslide.
Akhilesh Yadav has clearly failed to keep the pack together, be it within the family or within the party. The exodus has started and there are several fence-sitters, clearly annoyed on being side-lined by Team Akhilesh for a long time. With Mulayam aging and his health failing him, the road to success for the party seems difficult.
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It was only Mulayam Singh Yadav and his leadership that managed to keep big leaders under the umbrella of the socialist party. Stalwarts like Janeshwar Mishra and Mohan Singh were always given due respect of their seniority by Mulayam and it was a party where Mulayam was accessible to all – leaders or workers alike. Mulayam was a three-time Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh — in 1989, 1993 and 2003. He also served as the Defence Minister of the country in the United Front government in 1996 to 1998.
It all started when Samajwadi Party stormed back to power in the 2012 UP Assembly elections. Mulayam expressed reluctance to become Chief Minister and proposed the name of his son Akhilesh for the key post. This move was opposed tooth and nail by Mulayam’s cousin, Shivpal Singh Yadav, who himself had chief ministerial ambitions. A near rebellion within the party was averted and Shivpal was somehow pacified.
But the matter did not end there and the Samajwadi Party saw factionalism since 2012, one led by Akhilesh and supported by his uncle Ram Gopal Yadav and the other led by Shivpal and supported by the old guards of the party, including a number of MLAs.
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Akhilesh under Mulayam’s shadow
Akhilesh Yadav could not capitalise on his position during his first 2-3 years of chief ministership. He was seen working under the shadow of Mulayam, his coterie of senior ministers as well as senior bureaucrats, failing to take tough decisions. By the time he decided to come out of his shell, it was too late and the 2017 Assembly elections were around the corner.
Ticket distribution was another bone of contention between the lobbies of Akhilesh and Shivpal, with Mulayam playing the referee most of the time. Law and order situation in the state had deteriorated and this proved costly for the party which received a drubbing from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2017.
Three Consecutive Failures
Akhilesh’s first shocker was the Samajwadi Party’s routing in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The party, which won 23 seats in 2009, was reduced to a paltry five in 2014.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, Akhilesh experimented by entering into an alliance with the Congress. Akhilesh and Rahul Gandhi were portrayed as “UP Ke Ladke” (Lads of Uttar Pradesh) against the duo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. This experiment was a complete disaster as BJP stormed to power in the state. This was a jolt for Akhilesh which should have served as an eye-opener for him but did not.
The party under the leadership of Akhilesh, again tried another experiment, allying with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, calling themselves the Mahagathbandan (Grand Alliance). In the meantime, uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav had left the party and formed his own party, Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia). The election results came as a rude shock to the “Mahagathbandhan” as BJP won 65 seats of the total 80 seats of the state. The major gainer was Mayawati’s BSP which increased its tally from zero to 10 and Samajwadi Party was confined to the same five seats. Akhilesh’s wife Dimple, cousins Akhsay and Dharmendra, all lost from Kannauj, Firozabad and Badaun respectively.
The latest to quit Rajya Sabha from the Samajwadi Party quota is Sanjay Seth. Seth, an affluent builder of the state, was the national treasurer of the party and was said to be close to Mulayam and Akhilesh. He is also tipped to join the BJP soon.
Earlier, soon after the poll debacle, rebel voices emerged from the party camp. Neeraj Shekhar, son of former prime minister Chandrashekhar and its Rajya Sabha member, resigned from the House and joined the BJP.
Another RS member, Surinder Nagar also resigned and is tipped off to be joining the BJP soon. These leaders are miffed with the style of functioning of Akhilesh Yadav. It is noteworthy that Surinder Nagar resigned when almost three years of his term was remaining. This is not the end of the list and sources say that some other leaders including Rajya Sabha members of the Samajwadi Party are set to resign soon, to join the BJP.
Road Ahead for Akhilesh Yadav
After three back-to-back electoral losses, the Samajwadi Party seems to be staring down the barrel. There seems to be no plan whatsoever to revive the party in any way. One wonders what more Akhilesh Yadav and his advisors are waiting to happen!
This could be the final wake-up call for Akhilesh Yadav or the end of the road for Samajwadi Party and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Halla Bol style of politics in the country.
(Vivek Avasthi is Senior Editor – Politics with Business Television India)