The problem with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has been his own overblown ego. He treats himself as the most astute politician possessing the highest order of intellect and wisdom. He also nurtures the feeling that no other politician could read his mind and make out of his future moves.
None had anticipated that the trivial issue of Congress not agreeing to concede Samajwadi Party’s demand of few more assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh would be used to project PDA as the alternative to BJP by Akhilesh. Only on Friday, November 3, on a visit to Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh, Akhilesh, without mincing words said: “The people of Madhya Pradesh have been following the recent events closely and are now aware that if anyone has betrayed the alliance, it is the Congress. The power of PDA (Pichhde, Dalit, Alpsankhyak) will prevail over the NDA.”
Over the last fortnight, Akhilesh has been busy sending out the message that Congress is a chalu (cheater) and it cannot be relied upon. The Samajwadi Party leader has also used all kinds of nasty jibes against the Congress. Obviously, he wanted to convey to the people of his state Uttar Pradesh that the alliance is now basically over and SP will now move ahead alone. In fact, Yadav even dropped the hint by announcing that his party would contest 86 seats in the state.
Akhilesh is the only leader who made his intention public even before the other constituents of INDIA bloc could do so. It is certainly not the element of hurry that prompted him to distance himself from INDIA. It signifies the strategic move of self-assertion. But undeniably, Akhilesh is misplaced and once again like his earlier misdemeanors, has committed a major blunder. He has miserably failed to read and understand the mood of his own party leader, least to speak of the common people of UP.
Just after his outburst against the Congress and revelation of his design to revive the PDA plank, at least three prominent leaders of the SP quit the party. The SP sources pointed out that Akhilesh was merely trying to hide behind the pretext of denial of seats, and that his moves stem from other underlying reasons. They recall that before leaving for Mumbai from Saifai to attend the meeting of opposition bloc INDIA, Yadav said, “I am happy that meetings of the INDIA alliance are being held continuously. The public is confident that this alliance will form a government and the Bharatiya Janata Party will go out of power in the country.”
The SP leaders are also confused at Yadav’s assertion that he should have been informed that the platform INDIA would not be used to discuss the issue of assembly seat-sharing. If he was told this before the meetings, he should have thought of differently. Akhilesh was aware of the fact that the new national-level opposition body was being formed to defeat the Modi government at the Centre. It has only agenda, that to remove Modi from power. It was in this backdrop that the names of Nitish, Mamata and Pawar had come up as the possible alternative prime ministerial faces. In fact, Akhilesh had told that BJP had betrayed the common man and Uttar Pradesh had a very important role to play in the next Lok Sabha elections as 80 MPs are elected from the state. “People who have betrayed the public will be thrown out of power in the year 2024. Those who came in 2014, will go out in 2024.”
The most important line he had said at the Mumbai meet was “INDIA Will Defeat BJP in 2024 Lok Sabha Elections”. He had also said that “his party and its allies are ready to face elections anytime.” The SP leaders have a valid reason in seeking to know if somehow the differences with Congress have been sorted out and whether the SP decides to face the election in alliance with Congress. In that case, what will be Akhilesh’s answer as to why has he been denigrating the Congress!
Political circles are also agog at Akhilesh systematic identifying the Congress as his enemy. By doing so, he was in fact directly targeting Rahul Gandhi. It is widely believed that Akhilesh was using the Madhya Pradesh episode to malign the image of Rahul and subvert the process of presenting INDIA as the credible alternative to BJP. Political sources strongly believe that it was at the behest of some behind-the-curtain forces that he was indulging in such a vicious game. They feel horror-struck at how could a person who three months back said that “people of diverse ideologies have joined hands and the opposition INDIA bloc will decide its prime ministerial candidate soon”, could now tarnish the image of the oppositional alliance, particularly, its largest component, the Congress party and its iconic leader, Rahul Gandhi. They point out he had also written it in Hindi: “INDIA is a journey for each one of those who ‘Dil se chaahey desh ko (one who loves the country from the bottom of one’s heart)…the journey will go on and will grow…will hoist the victory flag”.
Only three days back, Akhilesh put out a post on social media which urges for reverting to his ‘PDA’ coinage and refrains from mentioning the opposition alliance. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Yadav also shared a photo of an SP worker with his back coloured in red-and-green and with a message in Hindi. The message reads. “Mission 2024. May Netaji (late Mulayam Singh Yadav) remain immortal. ‘PDA’ will ensure Akhilesh Yadav wins the election this time. Akhilesh Yadav will ensure the poor get justice.”
Nevertheless, sources maintain that Akhilesh is scared of the victory of Congress in the assembly elections to five states. Going by the public perception and the intense bickering in the BJP, he is sure that Congress would succeed in its mission to come to power in these states. A rejuvenated and stronger Congress will pose a serious challenge to him and his party in UP, and Akhilesh will be denied of the privilege and authority to dictate his terms.
Congress emerging victorious and a potent political force in Rajasthan and also in Madhya Pradesh will inevitably be once again perceived as the only force which can counter the BJP in the Hindi heartland. This will put the Congress in an enviable situation, which would dictate terms of seat-sharing to Akhilesh-led SP. In anticipation of such a political scenario, Akhilesh has started gearing up to face the Congress challenge.
However, it is the silence of Rahul Gandhi and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge that has been causing much consternation to Akhilesh, who had expected that both the leaders would initiate some steps to ameliorate the situation. Some senior Congress leaders hold a strong view that Akhilesh intends to inflict serious damage to the party, which is why he has been striving to make a non-issue in to a big deal. Akhilesh is aware of the political importance of the five poll-bound states. He should have realised that even Narendra Modi has been making frequent visits to Chhattisgarh and MP and offering freebies to the voters.
Victory of the BJP in these states will ensure the victory of Modi at the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. If Akhilesh had been really interested in defeating Modi in the Lok Sabha election, then realising the gravity of the situation, he should not have launched the insinuation campaign against Congress. Shockingly with the elections process starting in these states, he has only ominously intensified his tirade against the Congress. It was purely with the intention of damaging the electoral prospects of Congress in Madhya Pradesh that he has fielded 96 candidates in the state, even though it is known that SP has virtually no support base in the state.
To add substance to his argument, Akhilesh not only raised the issue of the credibility of Congress, he also demonstrated his camaraderie with the Aam Aadmi Party, sharing a mutual antagonism towards the Congress. To its credit, however, in MP and Chhattisgarh, AAP is also fighting separately, but at no point it made seat-sharing into an issue, or blamed the Congress for not entering into alliance with it for assembly elections, as Akhilesh has been portending. From the beginning, it was clear that INDIA was being floated to fight the Lok Sabha jointly, and not the assembly polls. Obviously, in this backdrop the allegation of Akhilesh that — “Congress should have made it clear in the beginning. If they did not want to give seats to us, they should not have initiated talks with us”— smacks of sinister design.
Moreover, Akhilesh questioning the relevance and need for caste census, despite being the son of the late Mulayam Singh Yadav, has an ominous dimension. While initiating moves for forging opposition unity, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had made it abundantly clear that carrying out caste census was the top agenda of opposition parties. In fact his government was fighting a legal battle against the designs of the BJP leaders, who had moved the higher courts to oppose such a move. Now Akhilesh raising this issue at this stage and decrying it by attributing it to Congress’s agenda underlines some unethical understanding with the forces opposed to nationwide caste census, chiefly those invested in the Hindutva campaign. (IPA Service)