“It is elementary, Shahabuddin”, explained Laloo Prasad Yadav sipping hot tea made from fresh cow milk, sitting under the neem tree, clad in a dhoti and banian. He elaborated “It is the question of having a vision, strategy and prioritization” remembering the old golden days when he used to get invites from IIMs, where intelligent youngsters vied to learn the art and science of management from him. That he had inherited and turned around railways from his bete-noir Nitish Kumar was not in the grasp of the students on the verge of becoming gurus of management.
This was a fictitious scene, but the observation was not. Laloo Prasad Yadav was cherishing the release of the gangster or don or whatever Shahabuddin was and is and will be. He was elaborating how he got his priorities right – almost. From making Rabri Devi as acting chief minister when he was ‘chakki pising’ to kicking out Sadhu Yadav from the party. No one can deny his grasp of how politics work in contemporary India. All said and done, he ruled the state of Bihar for three consecutive terms. By making his un-pad wife chief minister, he empowered womenfolk in the most symbolic way (We all look for someone to be in power representing their community/caste/group – Yes?), long before Rahul Gandhi got obsessed with it.
Maybe Mulayam Singh Yadav was thinking of Laloo Prasad Yadav, his counterpart in Bihar, criticizing his own vision or the lack of it. Unlike Laloo, Mulayam Singh could get his son educated – not only in India, but in foreign institutions also. Unlike sons of Laloo who fail to take the oath correctly, Akhilesh Yadav dominated his father’s image being a man who could speak flawless English and project a suave image to connect with the voters of Gen-next.
Mulayam Singh could rest with the administration being handled ably (?) by Akhilesh. But, all came to a nought – in a span of two days and one night.
Laloo Prasad Yadav, the wiliest politician he was stuck to basics irrespective of circumstances. Like Mulayam Singh, he used and abused the MY or Muslim-Yadav constituency. Had Nitish Kumar not joined hands with BJP, perhaps he might have equated the record of ruling the state of Jyoti Basu, i.e., if he was not prohibited by the Judges who don’t understand how politics work in India. He empowered his lieutenants and entrusted them with delivering results. And he believed in them. Inviting jail-returned Shahabuddin with open arms, despite his political clout is much less than what it was earlier. When Sadhu Yadav, his own brother-in-law (or outlaw?) wanted to become big, he cut him short and finally Sadhu had to leave the party fold. Even in selecting from his own children, Laloo Yadav had a rational assessment of their capabilities and got his younger son appointed as Deputy Chief Minister, while sending his daughter to Rajya Sabha. Thus, even the succession planning was considered only based on the longevity of the decision and not based on emotions.
On the other hand, Mulayam Singh had many of his friends ditching him or ditched by him only to return to the party. Azam Khan, Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma – three most trusted lieutenants of Mulayam Singh have been shown yellow and red cards, only to return to the field when they were needed. When Mayawati won elections by forging an earlier unheard alliance of Brahmins with Dalits and established herself as a strong administrator, Akhilesh Yadav toiled in the towns of Uttar Pradesh, projecting him as a youth icon. Young voters fed up with being tossed between Yadav and Dalit politics saw a Chandrababu Naidu in the modern looking Akhilesh Yadav. It took no time for Akhilesh Yadav to realize why Sonia Gandhi chose to handover reins of the government to Manmohan Singh.
Winning elections was relatively easier. All he had to do was ‘sell dreams’, which though was not an easy job, considering the length and breadth, fragmented demography of Uttar Pradesh.
But, after all, it was hard work and he could do. Running government, perhaps also might be equal, except he had three chief ministers who have more power than him. He had to include the Muslim face of the party, Azam Khan. And the disgruntled chacha, whom Mulayam Singh disregarded for the coveted post favoring own blood. Then the Neo Netaji himself. Eventually, people of Uttar Pradesh got three hundred fifty percent of what they asked for – in the form of three and half chief ministers, considering Akhilesh Yadav tried to manage half of what he planned to do, if voted to power.
The first victim was Law and Order. Almost like the dogs kept in the kennel during a hot day and left in the night into cool breeze, all socialist gangsters enjoyed the long cherished freedom. Freedom to loot, rape and what not. Of course, the favorite punching bag Narendra Modi and BJP are there to blame all failures. It appears Akhilesh Yadav sold a dream to his father also. A dream of becoming the Prime Minister of India, though it didn’t took much time to puncture this balloon and bring him back to the realistic world. Though worried at being kicked in the back in 2014, Mulayam Singh smarted and regained confidence from the success story of Laloo Prasad Yadav. Then, he started from A and B. Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma, both returned to their igloo. Return of Amar Singh rubbed the other Ace representing the much needed Muslim vote, Azam Khan in the wrong way.
Mulayam might have burnt barrels of midnight oil over contemplating how Laloo could join hands with Nitish.
How he wished he got an intelligent, but opportunist man like Nitish as his opposition in the state. But, he had to remind himself the fact, he had to deal with “Mayawati, the Elephant Rider”. How he cursed himself in failing to finish the job he planned, when she was taken prisoner two decades ago. All he could do was to plan for the future. Whenever someone left BSP and joined BJP, he must have felt happy and thanked Amit Shah for engineering those splits pulling down the tent of Mayawati.
Then, he was busy observing outside, while his own house started crumbling. Shivpal Yadav, one of the three chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and long term colleague of Mulayam Singh also read the writing on the wall. It is next to impossible for Samajvadi Party to get into power on their own. Though ‘Cot-Man’ Rahul Gandhi would oblige happily to form a coalition government, again Akhilesh would be in-charge of affairs. It means Shivpal Yadav would be one of many ministers in the cabinet. Enraged at the bleak and almost dark future, he started enjoying power – with more vigor.
How could Akhilesh accept the behavior of a man, who simply for being a family member overshadowed the chief minister? And, it was only last week he had got a boosting dose from the Cot-Man in the form of a ‘Achcha Ladka’ conduct certificate. For the first time since he assumed the office, Akhilesh took a major administrative decision – of removing the chief secretary, who was perceived to be close to Chachaji. Please note that kicking Mukhtar Ansari from the party fold was not an administrative, but a party decision, making the removal of CS the first major decision in the administration.
At this point of time, Mulayam understood why Laloo Prasad kicked Sadhu Yadav out of the party fold. If not kicked out, the support actors start feeling they are the heroes, like Shivpal Yadav feels about himself. As Samajvadi government is a multi-starer, Mulayam Singh had to pacify his kid brother. Like all big brothers, he avenged for his younger brother, by replacing Akhilesh, his son, by Shivpal. By this time, all news channels stopped airing the violent protests in Benguluru and started discussing the great game of politics being played in the Yadav family.
Signalling the beginning of end, Akhilesh took away major portfolios from Shivpal Yadav, as the power is vested with him thanks to the constitution, leaving the Chacha a namesake cabinet minister. As if to prepare final showdown, he cancelled all appointments and started waiting, like a hunter. Of course, Shivpal Yadav again went to his big brother, but this time, Mulayam Singh himself would not be able to control the Young Yadav, who after all has politics in his blood. And, for the time being, he is in commanding position for many of the so called party leaders would back him, for the simple fact that he is in command at present, and he represents the future. And, he is the only one who gets some support from other parties, in case an alliance is needed.
So, it is time for Mulayam Singh to rue on his past mistakes or his lack of ‘essential qualities’ like shaking hands with his opponents like Laloo Prasad Yadav did. Whether Laloo’s railway regime was worth emulating or not, his style of delegation had endeared him to his lieutenants proving ‘loyalty’ is a bidirectional issue. And timely severing ties with future contenders and succession planning denote, actually he learnt a lot from his one day visit to IIM-A.
For Mulayam, the game is over. He, along with Akhilesh played the game well. Shivpal removed from the administration, he provided breathing space to Akhilesh to mitigate past mistakes in the remaining tenure. For Samajvadi party, they got a new leader, who definitely is better than their old stock. Then, it is a million dollar question whether he will win elections or not. And in all probability, his chances of becoming CM are slim, but in these days of coalition democracy, Akhilesh cannot be ruled out – at least in the long run.