Eighteen months after he made his son the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh,hoping for a generational change in the Samajwadi Party (SP),Mulayam Singh Yadav is back at the front controlling both his party and its government.
With his son,Akhilesh Yadav,failing to read into the situations recent riots in western parts of the state being an example and with trouble brewing within the SP at least two sitting MPs have refused to contest Lok Sabha elections on party ticket Mulayam has now firmly taken charge of the partys preparations for the 2014 general elections.
Akhilesh has been sidelined - his say being limited to getting the party rallies filmed by advertisement experts from Mumbai,getting the rally webcast on party website and selecting publicity material for gatherings.
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It has been a tumultuous 18 months since Akhilesh took charge as the chief minister. Mulayam who had then said,Ab hamari party jawan ho gayi hai (Our party is getting young) is now urging the electorate not to punish him for the wrongs committed by the partys ministers,MLA or MPs.
The shrewd politician in Mulayam,party leaders say,has read the writing on the wall. He has taken charge of SPs poll preparations for two reasons ? firstly Akhileshs governance has failed to instil confidence among the masses in favour of SP and secondly the rising graph of BJPs prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Akhilesh,who had extensively toured the state during the Assembly elections on his Kranti Rath,is yet to address any exclusive rally by himself. At the ongoing Desh Banao,Desh Bachao rallies of SP,Akhilesh plays a second fiddle. The main focus remains on SPs Muslim face and minister Azam Khan and Mulayam who deliver long speeches,often spanning over 45 minutes,touching every subject,including attacking Modi. Akhilesh winds up his address within 15 minutes with no direct reference of Modi.
At Azamgarh and Mainpuri rallies,Mulayam asked Akhilesh to address the rally ahead of Azam defying the protocol. Even the development projects are jointly inaugurated by Akhilesh,Mulayam and Azam. The sloganeering too has changed with major focus on Mulayam and Azam. The youth brigade of Akhilesh,which worked with him in Assembly elections,is also missing from the scene with Mulayams men taking charge,even though Akhilesh is the state president of the party.
Mulayam now visits party office whenever he is in Lucknow. He personally calls up party candidates contesting the Lok Sabha elections and gives them instructions. Mulayam also personally interacts with party leaders across the state and seeks feedback,something not done by Akhilesh.
SP leaders claim that Akhilesh has failed to establish rapport with Muslims and OBCs the two base votebanks of the SP. In caste-ridden politics of Hindi belt,one cannot please everyone. During governance,one has to keep an eye on his base vote,which we failed to do under Akhileshs leadership, a SP leader said.
Now,Mulayams every speech is aimed at Muslims and OBC. At Mainpuri rally,Mulayam also did not hesitate to admit state governments fault in Muzaffarnagar riots and issued instructions to Akhilesh and other ministers from the stage to send a message among the Muslim community. Giving scheduled caste status to 17 Most Backward Classes is also another issue,which Mulayam rakes up during all his meetings to keep them in good humour.