Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, scheduled to be held later next month, the Election Commission (EC) citing the increasing Coronavirus cases and anticipating the third wave has banned physical political rallies. While the ruling dispensation in BJP has obediently accepted the order, former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is bemoaning the decision.
Akhilesh and SP patriarch Mulayam Yadav, dropping their arms are suggesting that BJP is far too stronger on the online platforms and thus it cannot go to battle in the meta world.
Speaking to the media, Akhilesh said, “The BJP has had a digital infrastructure for a long time, unlike other political parties. We will request the Election Commission to strengthen the digital platforms of other parties so that they can come in a position to compete with BJP. In case there is a need for digital rallies, we need to ensure that other parties are also having good digital infrastructure.”
The Bahubali culture of SP
Such tame surrender from SP is indeed quizzical. For a party and a family that was once feared ubiquitously, conducted lavish concerts in their paternal Safai village, spending millions, indulged in rampant Bahubali culture– the meteoric fall shows that Mulayam and Co. have become a waning entity.
Under SPs tumultuous rule, Bahubali culture was often used as an adjective to describe UP. The family members and friends of the dictatorial ruling party became the symbol of this culture. From Mukhtar Ansari to Azam Khan to Atiq Ahmed – SP has had no dearth of strongmen.
Once touted as the ultimate Bahubali of UP, Mukhtar Ansari commanded a reign of fear in the entire state, especially Poorvanchal during the late 90s and early 2000s. Whenever the cavalcade of Mukhtar Ansari sauntered out, there were slogans of ‘Bahubali Bhaiya’. 20 to 30 SUVs passed through a single straight line. All the vehicles used to end at number 786 and no government machinery had the resolve to cross his way.
While he won elections initially on a BSP ticket, it was soon made clear that Ansari was a darling of both parties, enjoying full support from the Mulayam corner as well.
While mentioning Ansari, no one can forget Akhilesh’s uncle Shivpal Yadav who had a pivotal role in bringing the notorious gangster into the party fold once his relations with BSP got strained.
Before Akhilesh swooped in and usurped top party position in 2012, it was Shivpal that used to be the number two for Mulayam. From keeping the caste-based politics alive to shielding the political criminals, Shivpal was the perfect sepoy for Mulayam.
Atiq Ahmad and Azam Khan
Akin to Ansari, Atiq Ahmad, a mafia turned politician has been a five-time state legislator in UP, apart from also being elected to the Lok Sabha once on a Samajwadi Party ticket. Atiq Ahmad has over 195 cases pending against him, including those relating to murder, abduction, illegal mining, extortion, intimidation and fraud. At the peak of SP power, Atiq was a big name who commanded fear in the authority and public’s heart.
As for Azam Khan, the chronicles of the Muslim face of SP have made the front-page headlines, all throughout the years. From threatening the DMs of the state to throwing the state machinery to find his buffalos, Azam Khan truly epitomized what was wrong with SP in its heydays.
The rise of PM Modi and the tidal wave in 2017 assembly elections
However, despite boasting heavyweights, SP could not bear the rise of PM Modi and alongside him, one saffron-wearing monk named Yogi Adityanath.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, the SP was humiliated and dislodged from power and further battered during the 2019 general elections by the BJP.
The alliance strategy with the Congress in 2017 and comically, the BSP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections failed rather spectacularly and the SP’s vote bank appears to have been compromised ever since. The party is going through a serious existential crisis with the party supremo dreaming of Lord Krishna.
After 2017, Mulayam’s family went into a tailspin and found itself in the middle of a civil war, as a direct repercussion of the crushing defeat. The troubles brewing in the family often spilt into the public domain with Shivpal eventually severing ties and launching his own party.
In 2017, nobody had anticipated such a huge wave of Yogi Adityanath in the state, and the opposition and detractors were left dumbfounded at the magnitude of the victory. SP and Mulayam could not come to the reality of the situation.
Fast forward five years, Yogi has become the tallest leader in the country. From developing UP into an industrial state to reducing crime to tackling the first and second wave of the coronavirus pandemic effectively, UP has grown strength to strength with Yogi at the helm.
Next month elections will decide if SP continues to be relevant or not in the state. The party’s fortunes hang by a thread and in the do-or-die contest, the indications continue to remain ominous. Can Mulayam salvage anything from the trainwreck of the situation that awaits his party? Only time will tell.