The extraordinary developments in Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party, with the possibility emerging for the first time that chief minister Akhilesh Yadav could split the SP, move away from his doughty father Mulayam Singh Yadav, the SP patriarch, (and not improbably seek to achieve a degree of accommodation with Rahul Gandhi), have imparted considerable dynamism to the scene just months before the Assembly election. The CM’s letter on Tuesday to his father, in which he simply communicated his decision to begin his election campaign from November 3, is unusual, to say the least. There is no hint of consultation here. The fact that the letter was promptly released to the media tells its own story. Further, there is no suggestion whatsoever that Akhilesh will be in Lucknow on November 5 for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the party that his father has assiduously built. These are unthinkable events.
Mulayam Singh Yadav had, of course, first given expression to the rift within when recently he peremptorily removed his CM son as chief of the state SP, inviting a succession of negative developments for the ruling party. Although it was in the air, UP Congress chief Rita Bahugana Joshi finally quit her party on Wednesday to join the BJP. This is likely to have symbolic value as she is the daughter of the late Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, a Congress stalwart of yesteryears and former UP CM. But that’s in the hazy past. In her own right Ms Joshi may prove unlikely to be an electoral factor, regardless of the enthusiasm with which BJP accepts her. The politics of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has fascinated political analysts as the place is complex, diverse, and sends more MPs to the Lok Sabha than any other state.
UP’s coming Assembly election is being seen with uncommon interest as its outcome is widely expected to impact the remainder of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s term and greatly influence the chances of his return to power in 2019. The SP has, for practical purposes, already got divided. The CM, who has a modernist and reformist image, seems to be attracting the younger elements of the party in a big way, and this should be a matter of concern for the Mulayam Yadav groupies. Reportedly, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s image has been dropped in some of the posters put up by the SP’s youth brigade. While a compromise is not ruled out, at this stage Mulayam may find it hard to arrive at its terms. There are too many family and other knots to be untied. In the event of a break, the straightforward equations on whose basis poll forecasts are typically made are likely to change.