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After the Samajwadi fracas, can Akhilesh Yadav hold on his own?

In the SP stalwart's word, he expelled both the leaders to save the party.

Written by Wali Ahmad | New Delhi | Published: December 30, 2016 9:33:43 pm
samajwadi party, mulayam singh yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, ram gopal yadav, akhilesh expelled, ram gopal expelled, up polls, up elections, india news, latest news Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav announces the expulsion of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years, in Lucknow on Friday. PTI Photo

Mulayam Singh Yadav finally cracked the whip and expelled Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Ramgopal Yadav from the party for six years. In the SP stalwart’s word, he expelled both the leaders to save the party. Akhilesh had been defiant ever since the family fight came to the fore when the chief minister locked horns with uncle Shivpal. Though Mulayam had brokered a peace between the two, he openly sided with Shivpal. As part of the bargain in September, he made Shivpal the party state president, a post held by Akhilesh. What followed was a no-holds-barred fight. The chief minister sacked ministers who were close to Shivpal, who in turn got rid of Akhilesh loyalists from the party.

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Now that the bitter family fight has led to breaking up of the Samajwadi Party, many are asking if Akhilesh can hold on his own. For decades, Mulayam had nurtured the party and zealously controlled its functioning. He carefully created Akhilesh’s position in the party and let him lead the youth wing. The young Yadav grabbed the opportunity and created a lot of goodwill among the party cadre. During the 2012 election campaign, his cycle yatra was said to be the turning point for the SP which was hoping for a comeback to power. To connect with the youth of the state, he promised laptops to students.

When the 2012 Assembly election results were announced, Akhilesh got the nod from his father to be the chief minister of the state. Skeptics had then argued that Akhilesh’s ascension to power was another example of parivaarvad in Indian politics. But soon, the perception was about to change. In the first three years of his reign, Akhilesh crafted an image of a chief minister who delivers. His infrastructure projects were widely praised. The Agra-Lucknow Expressway was Akhilesh Yadav’s dream project. The 302-km expressway was completed in a record time and substantially cut down travel time from Delhi to Lucknow. When six fighter jets landed on the expressway during its inauguration, Akhilesh must have been a content man. But the internal dynamics of the party was on a down hill.

As a wise old man who has seen it all and steered the party during all troubles in the past, Mulayam seems to have taken the risk of handling Akhilesh as a rebel. With Assembly elections just days away, this decision will certainly create confusion among the cadre. Mulayam has also a risked split in the party’s vote share. If Akhilesh floats a new party, which in all likelihood he will, he will end up eating into the SP’s vote share. The traditional Muslim-Yadav vote bank will now be split, and the BSP or the Congress stand to gain out of this family feud.

Akhilesh of 2016 is different from the Akhilesh of 2012. Then, he was under the shadow of his father; a scion of the Samajwadi Party; a political novice whose ‘decision-making was influenced by his uncles.’ Akhilesh has now come of age – a calculative leader who dared his father and decided to part ways. What people have seen of him in the last few months is a matured political leader who tried to create his own space. As the elections are getting closer, the father-son political fight will get more intense. But there can be only one winner. And as of now, Akhilesh seems to have the edge.

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