The surprising meeting of Samajwadi Party (SP) secretary general and Rajya Sabha member Ram Gopal Yadav with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow Monday seems to have not gone down well with the SP cadre, a section of which has been left wondering about the “real agenda” of the meeting even though the party tweeted on that night itself that it was meant to discuss the “plight of backward communities and Muslims” in the state.
“SP and other Opposition parties had been raising the issue of atrocities on their workers, minorities, and Dalits regularly for the past five years. SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has raised the matter in Vidhan Sabha as well. There was no need for Ram Gopal Yadav to meet CM Adityanath personally at his residence over the issue at this stage when Akhilesh’s leadership is being questioned after the party’s consecutive defeats in the elections to the Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and Legislative Council as well as bypolls,” said a SP functionary from western UP.
He said party workers in districts were calling up their senior leaders to enquire about the agenda of the Ram Gopal-Adityanath meeting. Questioning the urgency of the meeting, he also claimed that no major incident of atrocities against any minority or OBC community has taken place in the state in recent days.
Referring to reports that in their meeting Ram Gopal took up with the CM the cases of a few SP leaders whose relatives faced police action in Etah district at the alleged behest of the local BJP leaders, the SP leader said, “Our workers are facing such humiliation and harassment across the state. But our leaders did not go to meet the victim party workers. It would have been better if the party leadership had addressed a press conference on the issue instead of holding a one-on-one meeting with the BJP Chief Minister.”
Another SP leader said if any party leader outside the SP’s “first family” had met Adityanath personally, the party woud have taken disciplinary action against him. “But the party is mute in this matter because Ram Gopal Yadav is the second most powerful leader in the party and is a trusted lieutenant of Akhilesh, his nephew. He had thrown his weight behind Akhilesh during the tussle within the SP family in 2016-17. When Mulayam Singh Yadav (the SP founder) was heading the party, he always consulted cousin Ram Gopal before any major political and organisational decision,” he said.
The 5-term Rajya Sabha MP, Ram Gopal, 76, popularly called “Professor saab” in SP circles, is known to be the party’s face in Delhi. His salience for the party in national politics rose after Mulayam cut down on his political activities due to health reasons.
Ram Gopal has always rallied behind Akhilesh. In October 2015, during the tenure of the Akhilesh-led SP government, he had taken on the then governor Ram Naik and called him an “RSS swayamsevak” after the latter had criticised the state government over some communal incidents and deterioration of the law and order situation in the state. And when the governor had taken up the complaints about mass appointments of officials to prime posts from one
particular caste, Yadavs, it was he who released a list of all such officials, including those belonging to the Yadav community, to debunk the allegations.
A postgraduate in physics and political science, Ram Gopal, who also has a PhD, gives credit to Mulayam for his entry into politics. He started his political career as the block pramukh of Basrehar block in Etawah district in 1988. He was also elected to the Lok Sabha once – from Sambhal in 2004.
In October 2016, amid a raging SP family feud, then UP party president Shivpal Singh Yadav, Mulayam’s brother, had expelled Ram Gopal from the party, accusing him of being allegedly hand-in-glove with the BJP. But he had rubbished the allegation saying “It’s not a crime to meet leaders from any other political party in a democracy.” Within a month he was reinstated in the party with his position as its general secretary restored.