Advantage Akhilesh

Mulayam has undermined his son, but the future may well belong to the latter.

Written by Ravinder_Kaur | Updated: November 2, 2016 5:35 am
akhilesh yadav, samajwadi party, uttar pradesh, shivpal yadav, mulayam singh yadav, shivpal yadav sacked, ramgopal yadav, akhilesh sacks shivpal yadav, uttar pradesh politics, uttar pradesh elections, up assembly elections, uttar pradesh assembly elections, up polls, up votes, samajwadi party, up news, india news, indian express news The history that awaits to be written will be written not by Mulayam’s cohort but by Akhilesh’s — the youth.

I am no expert on UP politics but when Akhilesh first became chief minister, I had written a hopeful article, prophesying that he would take UP in a new direction (IE, March 14, 2012). I had pegged it to OBC desires for education and modernity and pointed out that Akhilesh represented what his father did not — the modernity that youth in UP and everywhere else in India desires. At that point, Mulayam appeared to be the doting father ready to pass on the political mantle to his son while he himself retired, keen to bask in the glow of his son’s accomplishments.

History has since shown how wrong I was on one count; Mulayam has constantly undermined his son and upheld patriarchal dominance and authority in order to retain control over the party. So, uncle Shivpal must come first while the dutiful son takes a back seat. The patrilineal brotherhood — the backbone of agrarian feudalism — must dominate the patrilineal filial tie. Patriarchal family values must be upheld at the expense of the individual holding elected office. Mulayam little realises that in undermining his son, he is undermining the CM’s position — but does he or anyone in India care, given that dynasties reign supreme in several states?

The sociology of family teaches us that in India, we tend to hide internal family fissures to evoke the “family spirit” and extol the joint family ideal. This is necessary as it is the family that is the source of support and sustenance due to lack of any kind of state support. Support is secured through “implicit” intra- and inter-generational contracts — between brothers and sisters, parents and children, and especially between parents and sons. Such “contracts” might not be written down in law but are enforced through moral norms and by ritual practices embedded in life-cycle ceremonies. The ideal of the joint family continues to be upheld as India’s civilisational pride even as it is revealed to be a site of unequal distribution of resources, emotional and property conflicts, gender violence and much else. However, despite this unveiling of the conflicts within the family, many sociologists argue that inter-generational familial contracts are not disintegrating but are simply being renegotiated.

Is Akhilesh finally going to rebel against the dominant patriarch? Will Indian society forgive him for doing so? Will he be allowed to run the party or win elections in 2017 without Mulayam’s blessings? These are the questions that he must be struggling with.

I would assert once again that the macro picture is on Akhilesh’s side. The history that awaits to be written will not be written by Mulayam’s cohort but by Akhilesh’s — the youth. UP is often seen as a slow transformer but that is because people tend to see it as a monolithic cesspool of poverty and backwardness. However, fieldwork shows vast transformations occurring in how the youth see their lives and the futures they seek. There are some telling figures on education, especially female education, in the state. In 2011, 69.4 per cent boys and 70.4 per cent girls were being educated from grades one to 12 — a tremendous catch up. Even more surprising, in the 18-23 age group (higher education), the percentage of boys being educated was 15.2 while that of girls was 17.4. This is a startling reversal in the gender gap in education and one that holds major implications for all aspects of life, including political choices.

Unsurprisingly, more women appear to be on Akhilesh’s side than on Mulayam’s. Mulayam’s “boys will be boys” type of opinions regarding sexual harassment and rape are unlikely to garner him additional votes. People realise that Mulayam has checked out while his son is more in tune with youth’s aspirations. Mulayam is a Luddite in his resistance to technology and the English language. Akhilesh’s views are diametrically opposite. As a young CM, he can also sense the competition in the air as far as development of states is concerned and realises that reputations in his political cohort are being made on how well one’s state is doing. Merely inheriting the family political mantle is no longer enough. Yet, for this election, how he handles the generational battle will be crucial.

The writer is professor of sociology in the department of humanities, IIT Delhi

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  1. P
    Nov 2, 2016 at 6:10 am
    in ease of business by UN ,,UP rank was 15th, bihar 16th.......all 8 states in TOp 10 were BJP ruled,,,,,,,,,,no jobs,no law and order,no electricity,,,,,,,This is the real picture of UP,,,No one wants to set up business in these 2 States...
  2. T
    Nov 2, 2016 at 7:42 am
    very right i can add a few more. Ms Ravinder Kaur it appears u r below forty or else u would have it Mulyam as CM of U.P. brought the booth capture culture to the door steps of Delhi during LS polls on 20 May 1991 by patronising Madan Bhayyas and D.P.Singhs and nothing has changed in 2016 and take it for granted embly polls in 2017 U.P. will see lot of blood letting as Amit Shah has his own army who can play footsie with gang of Mulayam.
  3. V
    Nov 2, 2016 at 12:15 pm
    Akhilesh is doing good job as CM..he has created record by providing 18 hrs power in remote areas..Lucknow kanpur allhahabd Varanasi have metros or going to have..See the pace of Agra Lucknow expressway even Su 30 can land and another expressway from Lucknow to Balia is in pipeline. AKHILESH HAS has done tremendous work on social sector be it smajwadi pension or Laptop distribution all has been done by him...With such wonderful work in his kitty I sincerely believe he must deserve another term...
  4. A
    Nov 2, 2016 at 1:08 pm
    I am no expert on UP politics? Then why opine in a newspaper?
  5. H
    Haridas Rao
    Nov 2, 2016 at 2:07 am
    Mulayam Singh in not just a Luddite he is a an Archaic type of Luddite - a type of Neanderthal Luddite .
  6. S
    Shrinivasa Kamath
    Nov 2, 2016 at 8:50 am
    Even if SP leaders patch up, it is never going to win 2017 election in UP. Damage is done. Akhilesh should separate and fight on development plank.
  7. A
    Nov 2, 2016 at 7:04 am
    Glorification of regional highly corrupt and communal minded parivar groups is the fashion of Delhi based pseudo-secular-left-liberal hypocrite columnists! They produce fascinating stories but cleverly forgetting the regional parties high corruption and nepotism deeds. All out of 5 SP MPs are from Mulayam families. All of his family parivars, known goons are either in UP ministry or in cabinet rank level board members in public sector corporations/insituions. Then these pseudo writers are comparing without shame who's better Akilesh or Mulayam? .
  8. K
    Nov 2, 2016 at 10:20 am
    SP and Congress are getting closer and an alliance is a reality -- that means Akhilesh will be the CM and Sheila Dixit , the Deputy CM .BJP will get washed away this time with BSP giving a neck to neck race for the formers
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