The merger of gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s Quami Ekta Dal(QED) into the Samajwadi Party, after a protracted internal rift within the SP’s first family and rejection of an initial proposal by the party’s parliamentary board in June after the opposition by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, has finally been approved by both the parties which their decision makers think need each other for the coming assembly elections.
The decision, which has been approved by party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav despite Akhilesh’s opposition to the deal and at the risk of aggravating the differences within the family, is aimed at consolidating Muslim support in east UP, crucial for SP’s success. The SP government has failed to fulfill many of its promises made in 2012 manifesto vis-a-vis Muslims, like providing reservation for the community and withdrawal of cases against Muslim youths who the party said were implicated in terror cases.
The aggressive campaign launched by Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati to woo Muslims and Congress’s attempts to revive itself in the state raise the possibility of significant dent in the SP’s hold on Muslim votes. The party has been getting the largest number of votes from the community in last two decades. On top of that, Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has caused ripples in the minds of young Muslims across the state. His party is likely to field candidates and can be expected to snatch a certain number of Muslim votes.
Thus, the merger and subsequent inclusion of Mukhtar, an MLA from Mau, his brothers, Sibghatulla, an MLA from Mohammadabad seat of neighbouring Ghazipur district, and former MP Afzal Ansari, who is the president of the outfit, is seen as a strategic necessity by Mulayam and his brother and SP state president Shivpal Yadav. The inclusion also gives the party an opportunity to portray itself as a force uniting Muslims to fight the BJP.
The Ansaris have been part of the east UP’s politics for more than two decades. They have been independent, with the SP, with the BSP and formed their own outfit. Their area of influence is the divisions of Azamgarh and Varanasi. The brothers command control over a section of Muslim votes in the districts of Azamgarh, Ballia, Mau, and Ghazipur, which elected as many as 20 SP MLAs in 2012.
The Ansaris who never had any long-term plans for QED, launched in 2010, also realise that their influence is on the wane without the support of a mainstream party. The support of SP leadership also helps them in other ways as Mukhtar and Afzal face a number of criminal cases and the former remains lodged in jail.
The initial talks of support between the two parties began in June when Shivpal got in touch with QED leaders to seek the support of their two MLAs for Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council elections, amid reports of the possibility of cross-voting by many MLAs. Later the talks of merger started after the meeting between Mulayam and QED leaders. However, the decision had to be reverted after Akhilesh expressed unhappiness and even sacked minister Balram Yadav from cabinet for his key role in merger.
However, subsequent differences between Mulayam and Akhilesh which cropped up in September leading to appointment of Shivpal as state chief in place of Akhilesh, resulted in isolation of the chief minister from the party’s several decisions. As Mulayam was already in favour of the deal, Shivpal who has been assertive in his new role, made the final announcement this week.
The decision to give a ticket to murder accused Amanmani Tripathi, son of murder convict Amarmani Tripathi, followed by the merger of QED signals the SP’s return to the politics of its old days when it prized its affiliation with strongmen in almost every region of the state. It also hurts the clean image of Akhilesh as well as the SP, which was built largely after he stopped the inclusion of west UP muscleman DP Yadav into the party before 2012 assembly elections.