Did Prashant Kishor direct the Mulayam Akhilesh rift “drama”?

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Prashant Kishor Mulayam Akhilesh

Ups and downs are parts of life. Though they are normally not predictable, one can shape future by persisting with the action plan. Many have voiced negative opinions on the ability of Prashant Kishor in the past, especially when Congress lost Assam to BJP. Comparing his victories when he was associated with Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, it was inferred he bets on winning horses rather than making his horse win. Seems, he has taken the comment seriously. Disappearing from the political scene of UP for long, he has confined himself to few appearances.

Soon after assuming charge of Congress’ political affairs in Uttar Pradesh, Prashant Kishor realised he can’t forge another ‘Mahagathbandhan’ in the state on the lines of what he could in Bihar. The animosity between two top most leaders of the state, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati is worse than the relationship between India and Pakistan. Forget fighting BJP together, they don’t talk to each other. And the party which awarded him the contract for next elections was at a distant fourth in the state with no vital signs of recovery. Really a tough job, indeed.

Though his proposal for someone from Gandhi family to become a CM candidate was turned down by both siblings of the family, the party respected his advice on trying to woo Brahmin voters. But, even while they implemented his recommendation, Congress had played a cruel joke on the party itself, by choosing Sheila Dixit as Chief Ministerial candidate. Then came the exit of Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who joined her brother’s party i.e., BJP. For a while, between BJP and Congress, it was not clear who was trying to score more self-goals.

All the while, both Congress and BJP were considering to fight Mayawati’s BSP in the coming elections. Both parties have ignored Samajwadi party for various reasons varying from the deteriorated law and order situation in the state to incumbency factor. BJP was inducting deserters from BSP in the hope that they will bring their voter base to BJP. While Rahul Gandhi was busy with his Khat meetings, BJP was busy in inducting everyone including Anupriya Patel, who was made part of Modi’s cabinet. Smriti Irani remained only in the ‘smriti’ of columnists like me.

All the time, something was cooking on a slow flame. The first indication was Rahul Gandhi’s comment on the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh: ‘Theek Ladka hai’. And it was in the month of July. That someone was working behind scenes could be sensed when Akhilesh reciprocated to Rahul, albeit two months later, by saying “Rahul Gandhi Achcha Ladka hai”. Suddenly the political grape vine was about an alliance between Congress and Samajwadi Party.

Meanwhile, Amar Singh returned to the Yadav Pariwar, with an eye on Kshatriya votes. Mulayam Singh, the eternal schemer of caste configurations was continuously inducting and ejecting Ansari eyeing to consolidate Muslim votes. Surprisingly, from the very first move to induct Ansari into party fold, Akhilesh has maintained a consistent stance opposing Ansari. He even spoke about how politics should rise above caste based considerations.

At the expense of Ansari, and to some extent of Shivpal Yadav and Amar Singh and Ram Gopal Yadav, the father-son duo had enacted a well-orchestrated script that culminated in Akhilesh taking reins of the party and forcibly promoting Mulayam Singh Yadav to a ‘mentor’ (After Advani episode, suddenly no one wants to become a mentor!).

It is seen Mulayam and his loyalists are averse to give a lifting hand to the hand. But, in the end it appears, for the sake of the hand, Akhilesh had given a hand to his own father. There are two cases. One is the current feud in Samajwadi family is a fake one, only to divert attention from the failures of Akhilesh Yadav on administrative front. However, considering the irreparable damage it caused to the image of Mulayam Singh Yadav, the fight could be real. Considering the power mongering nature of our politicians who like to wield power despite clearly delegating the authority to someone else, the fight is not a deviation from the way politics are practised regularly.

As of now, both factions of Samajwadi Party led by father and son are trying to fight for the party symbol. Whoever gets it, the situation has so manoeuvred Akhilesh would be in advantageous position. He already demonstrated to the world who corners the loyalty of MLAs and party cadre. The fact that last elections were fought in his name was a factor supporting him. Though he allowed his father and father’s coterie to prevent him from functioning on his own, he clutched to the last chance that was given to him. By throwing his father and his uncle out of party fold, he simply distanced himself and the party from all the law and order issues of the state. Of course, there is no logic here why he himself should be cleared off from shouldering failure of his own government. But, in politics, the power players play with the emotions of voters. What Akhilesh is trying now is to rake up the emotions of people who voted for him for the ‘betterment’ of the state. Of course, he cannot denigrate his father who created the party, despite the manipulations by Amar Singh and rifts within the ruling family.

For Akhilesh and the party, this may well be the Indira Gandhi moment; to ascertain his hold on the party and its future. Prashant Kishor might not have engineered the rift within the family and subsequent split of the party, but he would definitely be using the changed scenario to further his own goals.

So, once Akhilesh is out of Mulayam’s shadow and steps into the political arena on his own, he may not have the same legacy oriented problems to forge any alliance with Mayawati. He may not forge an alliance directly with Mayawati, but an attempt can be made to have a tacit understanding with the party. Maybe Mayawati was correct when she told that Mulayam Singh was against joining hands with Congress owing his fears to Modi unleashing CBI on him and open old disproportionate assets cases. Mulayam may get temporary respite from CBI, but he would be permanently sacrificing the political career of Akhilesh.

For one, Akhilesh surely knows he can’t win next elections given the baggage of ‘bad governance’. So, it is better to discard the liabilities before elections. The present split presents him with such a chance. With this, he would again get back into the race.

Considering Congress lost Rita Bahuguna Joshi and named old war horse Sheila Dixit as their candidate, what can Prashant Kishor do so that Congress can regain the lost ‘respect’? Where is the Prashant Kishor’s hand, then in the ongoing family feud of SP?

Best chances for Congress are in entering into alliance with one or the other party. They need another party that also looks for an alliance, so it could be mutually beneficial. BSP was a bit confident on winning on its own and never considers Congress. One factor against an alliance with Congress is Mayawati may look a permanent shift of her vote bank, back to Congress. If she is with Congress in one place, why they should consider her at all? So, Maya cannot afford to engage with Congress. That leaves scope only for an alliance between Congress and SP.

Involvement of Prashant Kishor is there in attempts to bring Congress and SP together. Apart from the recent bonhomie between Akhilesh and Rahul, the recently passed bill to include some backward castes into ‘Schedule Castes’ is also seen as a move in this line. The fact his father failed trying to include these castes into SC category notwithstanding, Akhilesh passed the bill. This bill is aimed to dilute the vote base of BSP.

Whether the bill is accepted by the Union government or rejected, as it was done earlier by the UPA government is insignificant. If the bill is rejected, Akhilesh would blame BJP as anti-backward Brahminic organisation that still exploits weaker sections (?). Even if the bill is cleared by the Union Government, BJP cannot stake claim for it, because it was the state government that proposed it in the first place. This move is having all imprints of Prashant Kishor’s design. (Or am I overrating him?)

Meanwhile, in the form of demonetisation, Modi has given another shot in the arm to all opposition parties. Though the tangible effects of demonetisation on the economy are still not realised to comment upon, all opposition parties would remind voters on the unavailability of their own cash, till voting is over. On the other hand, Modi would be explaining many collateral advantages of demonetisation. If Akhilesh got separated from his father and forges an alliance with Congress, in all probability, he would get support from all opposition leaders starting from Laloo and Nitish to Mamta and Kejriwal. RLD may also enter into the alliance as well so that BJP can be sufficiently tackled in the western fields of UP.

Opposition parties crying hoarse on Modi making money unavailable to opposition parties, while BJP already hoarded in small denomination doesn’t hold true. If the fact of monetary expenses of Bihar elections were considered, it is clear money alone cannot win the elections. Elections are won easily, when a ‘sympathy’ or ‘sentiment’ is involved.

What Akhilesh is now doing is to create a ‘sentimental’ wave for himself. Considering elections only few months away, current manoeuvres are just in time to affect the minds of people. BJP has already peaked in the immediate aftermath of demonetisation and is now trying to sustain same levels with great difficulty and much efforts by Modi himself.

Prashant Kishor, still playing the role of ‘Sarathi’ simply replaced the ‘Rathi’. In UP, he couldn’t choose the winning horse and so he choose a horse that can be trained to run. How far Akhilesh respond to the signals of Prashant would be really interesting to observe. Yes, the situation – still is fluid. But, now the UP elections have just entered into an interesting phase and are becoming worth to watch. It would be interesting how BJP would be dealing with the situation that is evolving with time. So far, BJP has not even named chief minister candidate. It may so happen leaders of Congress, SP and BSP may consider Modi as the BJP’s face. But, in the long run involving the PM for state elections is not a perfect strategy, for the party may be risking the image of PM.