The absence of Samajwadi Party’s President Mulayam Singh Yadav from Nitish Kumar’s swearing-in ceremony at a time when opposition parties are hailing Bihar’s victory as their biggest achievement against the Modi government,
did not come as a surprise in Lucknow.
Two days ago, the Samajwadi Party president expressed his annoyance over regular meetings of party’s frontal organization not being held, at a meeting of the party’s youth leaders in Lucknow. Mulayam asked that a meeting of the womens’ wing which he would attend should be scheduled for November 20.
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A youth leader, quipped: “Netaji on November 20, it is Nitish Kumar’s oath ceremony hence you will be busy.”
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The statement infuriated Mulayam so much that he severely reprimanded all the leaders in the hall. “Why should I be busy on November 20? I am not going there, he is a traitor who has ditched me. I proposed his name for the chief ministership and he sat in the lap of the Congress. He cheated me. I am not interested,” Mulayam said while an audience of nearly 250 leaders sat in silence. What surprised them was that he had so openly criticised Nitish Kumar, something he hasn’t done in the past.
Mulayam’s reaction sums up his situation. Claiming to be the tallest socialist leader in the country, Mulayam has lost the battle to Nitish. Mulayam, who was hailed as the leader of the proposed Samajwadi Janata Dal had lost the face earlier, after he had distanced himself from the Grand Alliance. It is Nitish who has emerged taller after defeating the BJP.
During the Bihar polls, Mulayam harmed his cause further by attacking Nitish and citing his past association with the BJP. Mulayam’s feeble defence that Nitish included Congress in the Grand Alliance does not hold much water as he has played second fiddle to the Congress several times and taken its support.
Mulayam’s absence, thus, has more personal reasons, primarily, losing the mantle of leadership to Nitish.
Politically, at a time when Mulayam’s stature has been diminished and his credibility is at stake with his party leaders and even ministers openly favouring a Grand Alliance-like coalition in UP, the Yadav satrap felt it was to better stay away from Bihar. His presence would have sparked stories of the formation of a Grand Alliance in UP . Mulayam wants to avoid the public glare where he is seen to play a supporting role in socialist politics — a situation he finds humiliating.
As for Akhilesh, his absence hardly mattered. Even if he had attended the function it would have been a token presence of a CM as Akhilesh would never have said anything about the prospects of a future alliance. However,
his presence in Patna would have at least tempered the open display of anger by Mulayam. The SP defends Akhilesh’s absence on the grounds that he is busy with Mulayam’s birthday celebrations on November 22 and that he had to receive music composer A R Rehman — a weak excuse.
With BSP’s leader Mayawati also avoiding the swearing-in of Nitish, UP’s top politicians seem reluctant to step forward for an alliance.